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Snittli 5tatfs !S'aiJ2 


nrrLUExcE of sea power upox the frexch kevolctios 



VOL. n 


St. Duiistan's House, Fetter Lane, Fleet Street, E. C. 

Copyright, 1903, 1904, 
Bv Charles Scribner's Sons. 

Copyright, 1905, 
By a. T. Mahan. 

All rights reserved 

Published October, 1905 




The Winter of 1812-1813 — Baixbridge's Squadrov: Actioxs between 


Increasing Fresscse ok Atlantic Coast 


Baiubridge's squadron sails 1 

His plans for the cruise 2 

The " Essex " fails to join 3 

Proceedings of " Constitution " and " Hornet " 3 

Action between the " Constitution " and " Java " 4 

The " Constitution " returns to the United States 7 

Proceedings of the " Hornet " 7 

Action between the " Hornet " and " Peacock " 8 

The " Hornet " returns 9 

The Chesapeake and Delaware blockaded 9 

Subsequent extension of blockade to the whole coast south of Newport 10 

Three periods into which the War of 1812 divides 10 

Difficulty of American frigates in getting to sea 11 

Difficulty of manning the navy 12 

Cruise of the " Chesapeake " 13 

Gradual suppression of American commerce 14 

Increasing stringency of the commercial blockade • • 15 

British occupation of Delaware and Chesapeake Bays 16 

Diminution of the coasting trade, and increase of land carriage ... 17 

Effects upon prices . . 18 

Abandoned condition of the western Atlantic 20 

Diminution in number of prizes taken by Americans 20 

Estimate of relative captures by the two belligerents 21 

Relative captures no indication of relative immunity 23 

American deprivation makes for the prosperity of Halifax and Canada 23 
The blockade the chief offensive maritime operation of Great Britain, 

in 1813 24 

No opposition longer possible to the American Navy 25 

Strength of the British blockading divisions 25 



Escape possible only by evasion 25 

The brunt of the British naval operations falls upon the Chesapeake 

and Delaware 26 


Campaign of 1813 on the Lake Frontier, to the Battle 
OF Lake Erie 

The British naval service on the lakes under Warren's supervision . . 28 

Sir James Yeo appointed to the local command 29 

Appoints Captain Barclay to take charge of British vessels on Lake Erie 29 

The Americans now superior on Ontario 29 

Montreal the true American objective 29 

Dearborn ordered to concentrate effort upon Lake Ontario 30 

Chauncey's first plan, to capture Kingston 30 

Dearborn and Chauncey ordered to proceed first against Kingston, then 

Toronto, then Niagara 31 

Dearborn's objections 32 

His reports obtain change of plan from the Government 33 

Chauncey's new plan 33 

The expedition leaves Sackett's Harbor 36 

Capture of Toronto 36 

Chauncey's anxiety for Sackett's Harbor 37 

Capture of Fort George, and British retreat from Niagara 38 

Effects of the American occupation of the Niagara peninsula .... 40 

American naval vessels escape from Black Rock to Erie 41 

British attack upon Sackett's Harbor 42 

Premature firing of the naval yard and vessels 45 

Consequent delay in Chauncey's preparations 45 

Yeo takes the lake with his squadron 46 

American reverse at Stony Creek 46 

The army retreats upon Fort George 47 

The British re-occupy the peninsula, except Fort George 47 

Dearborn is relieved from command 48 

Paralysis of the American forces at Niagara 48 

Yeo in temporary control of Lake Ontario 49 

Chauncey sails to contest control 51 

Characteristics of the ensuing naval campaign 52 

Predominant idea of Chauncey and Yeo 52 

Relative powers of the two squadrons 53 

Their encounter of August 10, 1813 56 

Chauncey's extreme caution 59 

The engagement of September 11 60 

Expediency of a " general chase " under the conditions 61 



The Campaign of 1813 ox the Lakes and Northern Frontier 

— THE Battle of Lake Erie 


The American Xavy on Lake Erie 62 

Pern's eagerness for active operations 63 

Coincidence of events on Lakes Erie and Ontario 64 

LiferioritT of Perry's crews in numbers and quality 64 

Professional contrast between Chauncey and Perry 65 

Personal difficulty. Perry applies to be detached 66 

The Na^y Department refuses 67 

Position of the American army on the Maumee 67 

Procter's attack upon Fort Meigs 68 

Procter and Barclay plan attack on Erie 69 

Ke-enforcements of troops refused them 69 

Barclay blockades Erie 70 

Barclay visits Long Point 71 

Perrj's squadron crosses the bar at Erie 72 

I'rocter attacks Fort Stephenson, and is repulsed 73 

Barclay retires to Maiden 74 

Perry in control of the lake 74 

Destitution of provisions in the British camp and fleet 75 

Barclay goes out to fight 76 

Composition and armament of the two squadrons 76 

Controversy about the battle 78 

Dispositions of the two commanders 80 

Opening of the battle 81 

Examination of the controversy between Perry and Elliott 82 

Progress of the engagement 88 

Second stage of the battle 89 

The British surrender 94 

Meritorious conduct of Captain Barclay 94 

Question of credit on the American side 95 

Comparison of the campaigns on Erie and on Ontario 99 

Effect of the battle on the fate of the Northwest 99) 

Its bearing upon the peace negotiations of the following year .... 100' 

Influence of control of the water illustrated on the lakes 101 


The Campaign of 1813 on the Lakes and Northern Frontier, 
AFTER the Battle of Lake Erie 

Perry's victory promptly followed up 102 

General Harrison lands his army at Maiden 103 

Recovery of Detroit. Battle of the Thames, October 5, 1813 . . . . 103 



The Indians fall away from the British 103 

Harrison's army transferred to Niagara 104 

Perry detached from the lake service 104 

Changed American plan of campaign on Ontario 104 

General James Wilkinson replaces Dearborn 104 

The Government designates Kingston as the objective 1 05 

The embarkation begins at Niagara under cover of the navy .... 106 

Yeo's squadron appears in the neighborhood 106 

Encounter between the two squadrons, September 28, 1813 107 

Criticism of Chauncey's management 108 

Wilkinson's troops reach Sackett's Harbor 110 

The British re-enforce Kingston 110 

New change of American plan. The army to be directed on Montreal 1 1 1 
Intended junction with the troops from Lake Champlain, under General 

Hampton Ill 

Wilkinson's army assembled within the mouth of the St. Lawrence . . 114 

It proceeds down the river 114 

Pursuit by a British detachment 114 

American reverse at Chrystler's Farm 115 

Hampton fails to join Wilkinson, and returns to Plattsburg .... 116 
The expedition abandoned. Wilkinson goes into winter quarters at 

French Mills 116 

Chauncey returns to Sackett's Harbor from the St. Lawrence .... 117 

Transports Harrison's division from Niagara to Sackett's Harbor . . 117 

Fleets lay up for the winter . 117 

Disastrous close of the campaign upon the Niagara 118 

Americans evacuate Fort George and the peninsula 120 

They burn Newark 120 

Act disavowed by the American Government 120 

Sir Gordon Drummond in command in Upper Canada 120 

The British, under General Riall, cross the Niagara and capture Fort 

Niagara 121 

Lewiston, Youngstown, and Manchester burned in retaliation for 

Newark 121 

Buffalo burned, and three naval vessels at Black Rock 121 

General failure of the campaign about Lake Ontario 122 

Discussion of the causes 123 


Seaboard Maritime Operations, 1813 

United States on the defensive on the seaboard 126 

British reasons for partially relaxing severity of blockade 127 

Reasons do not apply to armed vessels or coasting trade 127 

American Navy powerless to protect commerce 127 



To destroy that of the euemy its principal mission 128 

Cruises of the " President " and " Congress " 128 

Efficacy of the British convoy system 130 

Its chief failure is near ports of arrival 131 

This dictates the orders to Captain Lawrence 131 

Importance of the service 132 

Imperfect preparation of the " Chesapeake " 132 

Efficiency of the " Shannon." Broke's professional merit 133 

His challenge to Lawrence. Not received 134 

The " Chesapeake " sails, purposely to fight 135 

Account of the action 136 

The " Chesapeake " captured 140 

Analysis of the engagement 141 

Decatur fails to get to sea with a squadron 148 

Driven to take refuge in New London 148 

Frigates confined there for the war 149 

Particular anxiety of the British Government about American frigates 150 

Expectations of the Admiralty and the country from Warren's fleet . 151 

Effects of the blockade of New London on local coasting 152 

Evidence of the closeness of the whole blockade south of New London 153 

Conditions at New York 1 54 

British operations in the upper Chesapeake, 1813 1.56 

Conditions in Delaware Bay 158 

American precautions in Chesapeake and Delaware 159 

Circumspect conduct of the British vessels in the Chesapeake .... 161 

Warren brings a detachment of troops from Bermuda 162 

Rencounters in and near Hampton Roads 163 

British attack upon Craney Island. Fails 164 

Attack upon Hampton. Ineffective 166 

Further movements of the British in the Chesapeake 167 

Movement of licensed vessels in Chesapeake Bay during these operations 1 70 
Consequent recommendation of President to prohibit all exports during 

the blockade 173 

Rejected by Senate. Enforced in Chesapeake by executive order . . 1 74 

Glaring necessity for such action 175 

Embargo law passed in December, 1813 176 

Main British fleet quits the Chesapeake. Its failure in direct military 

operation 177 

Efficacy of the blockade 177 

Characteristics of the different sections of the United States, as affecting 

their suffering from blockade 178 

Statistical evidences of its effects 181 

Prices of great staples : flour and sugar 184 

Dependence of Eastern and Southern States upon coasting, greater than 

that of Middle States 186 

Captain Hull's reports on Eastern coasting 187 




Action between the " Boxer " and " Enterprise " 188 

Intermission of Eastern blockade during winter 192 

Its resumption in increased vigor in 1814 192 

Undefended conditions of the American coast 193 

Conditions of Southern coasting trade 195 

British blockade severs the mutual intercourse of the different sections 

of the United States 198 

Remarks of Representative Pearson, of North Carolina 199 

Message of the Governor of Pennsylvania 200 

Rigors of the blockade shown by figures 201 

Momentary importance of the North Carolina coast 203 

Advocacy of an internal navigation system 204 

Evidence of privation in the rebound of prices and shipping movement 

after peace 205 

Exposition of conditions, in a contemporary letter by a naval officer . . 207 

The experiences of the War of 1812 now largely forgotten 208 

Lessons to be deduced 208 

Pressure upon the British Government exerted, even by the puny con- 
temporary American Navy 209 

Advantage of the American position 211 

Opinions of Presidents Washington and Adams as to the international 

advantage of a navy 212 

Policy of President Jefferson 213 


Maritime Operations External to the Waters of the United 
States, 1813-1814 

Commerce destruction the one offensive maritime resort left open to the 

United States 215 

Respective objects of privateers and of naval vessels 216 

The approaches to the British islands the most fruitful field for opera- 
tions against commerce 216 

Cruise of the " Argus " 217 

Capture of the " Argus " by the " Pelican " 217 

Significance of the cruise of the " Argus " 219 

Great number of captures by American cruisers 220 

Comparatively few American merchant ships captured at sea .... 221 
Shows the large scale on which British commerce throve, and the disap- 
pearance of American shipping 221 

Control of British Navy shown by American practice of destroying prizes 222 
Successes of the privateers " Scourge " and " Rattlesnake " in the North 

Sea 223 

The " Leo " and " Lion " off coast of Portugal 224 


British army in southern France incommoded by cruisers off Cape 

Finisterre 224 

American cruises based on French ports 225 

The privateer " Yankee " on the gold-coast of Africa 226 

Action between the American privateer " Globe " and two British 

packets, off Madeira 227 

Captures in the same neighborhood by privateers " Governor Tomp- 
kins " and " America " 228 

The West Indies as a field for warfare on commerce 229 

Activity there of American cruisers 230 

Stringency of the Convoy Act in the West Indies. Papers captured 

there by the " Constitution " » 230 

Indirect effects of the warfare on commerce 231 

Cruise in the West Indies of the naval brigs " Rattlesnake " and 

" Enterprise " 232 

Combat between the privateer " Decatur " and British war schooner 

"Dominica" 233 

The "Comet" and the British ship "Hibernia" 234 

The " Saucy Jack " and the British ship " Pelham " 235 

The " Saucy Jack " with the bomb-ship " Volcano " and transport 

"Golden Fleece" 236 

Remarkable seizure by the privateer " Kemp " 237 

The cruises of the privateer " Chasseur " 237 

Combat between the " Chasseur " and the British war schooner "St. 

Lawrence " 238 

Contrasted motives of the ship of war and the privateer 241 

Relative success of American naval vessels and privateers in the war 

upon commerce 242 

Cruise of the frigate " Essex " 244 

Arrival in Valparaiso of the " Essex," and of the British ships, " Phoebe " 

and " Cherub " 247 

Action between the " Essex " and the " Phoebe " and " Cherub "... 249 

Cruise of the " Wasp " 253 

Action between the " Reindeer '' and " Wasp " 254 

Action between the "Avon " and "Wasp " 256 

Disappearance of the " Wasp " 257 

Cridse of the " Peacock " 258 

Action between " Epervier " and " Peacock " 259 

Further cruise of the " Peacock " . . . ' 261 

Activity of American cruisers in British waters 262 

Agitation in Great Britain 263 

The effect produced due to the American people severally 265 

Prostration of the Government in the United States, 1814 265 

Determination to accept peace without relinquishment of impressment 

by Great Britain 266 

Development of privateering 267 



Adaptation of vessels to the pursuit 268 

Practical considerations determining vessels to be employed .... 269 
Secretary of the Navy recommends squadrons of schooners for action 

against commerce 270 

Debate in Congress 271 

Recommendation adopted 272 


The Niagara Campaign, and Events on the Great Lakes, 
IN 1814 

British advantages of position on the Niagara line 274 

Unusual mildness of winter 1813-1814 276 

Effect on operations . 276 

British project against the vessels in Put-in Bay 277 

Difficulty of maintaining British garrison at Mackinac 278 

American army abandons cantonments at French Mills 278 

Part goes to Lake Champlain, part to Sackett's Harbor 278 

American project against Kingston 279 

General Brown's mistake as to the Government's purpose 280 

Carries his army to the Niagara frontier 281 

Chauncey's fears for Sackett's Harbor 281 

Wilkinson's expedition to La CoUe. Failure 282 

Wilkinson superseded by General Izard 283 

Yeo obtains momentary superiority on Ontario 283 

Importance of Oswego 284 

British capture Oswego, and destroy depots 284 

Yeo blockades Sackett's Harbor 285 

Difficulty of American situation on Ontario 285 

British naval disaster in attempting to intercept convoy from Oswego 

to Sackett's Harbor 286 

Yeo abandons blockade of Sackett's Harbor 290 

American plan of operations on northern frontier 291 

Brown crosses the Niagara. Surrender of Fort Erie 294 

Advance towards Fort George 294 

Battle of Chippewa 295 

Brown advances to Queenston 298 

Chauncey's failure to co-operate 298 

Consequent anxiety of the Government 299 

Decatur ordered to relieve Chauncey 300 

Chauncey's defence of his conduct 300 

Discussion of his argument 301 

British advantage through his inaction 304 

Leads to the battle of Lundy's Lane 306 

Battle of Lundy's Lane 309 



Value to Americans of the battles of Chippewa and Landj's Lane . . 311 
Improvement in the militia through association with Brown's army . .312 

Brown unable longer to keep the field. Eetires to Fort Erie .... 314 

British assault upon Fort Erie. Disastrous repulse 314 

British now embarrassed by Chauncey's blockade 315 

American successful sortie from Fort Erie 316 

Drummond abandons the siege, and retires to the Chippewa .... 317 

Brown unable to follow him 317 

Izard ordered from Lake Champlain to Brown's aid 318 

His march 320 

His corps arrives at the Niagara frontier 321 

Strength of the British position on the Chippewa 322 

Izard's hopelessness 322 

Blows up Fort Erie and retires across the Niagara 323 

Naval and military expetlition against Mackinac 324 

Unsuccessful, except in destroying British transports 324 

British capture the American naval schooners "Tigress" and "Scor- 
pion" 325 

American schooners "Ohio" and "Somers" also captured, off Fort 

Erie 327 

Loss of the " Caledonia" and " Ariel " 327 

The Erie fleet lays up for the winter, after the British abandon the siege 

of Fort Erie 328 


Seaboard Operations its 1814. Washutgtoit, 
Baltimork, and Maine 

Defensive character of the British northern campaign in 1814 . . . . 329 

Increase of vigor in their seaboard operations 330 

Warren relieved by Cochrane 330 

Intentions of the British Government . 331 

Retaliation for American actions in Canada 333 

Prevost's call upon Coclirane to retaliate 334 

Cochrane's orders to his vessels 334 

Attitude of British officers 335 

Early operations in Chesapeake Bay, 1814 336 

Relations of Barney's flotilla to the British project against Washington 337 

Assembling of the British combined forces in the Chesapeake .... 340 

Condition of American preparations 342 

British advance. Destruction of Barney's flotilla 344 

Retreat of American forces 345 

American position at Bladensburg 346 

Battle of Bladensburg 347 

Burning of Washington 349 



Capture and ransom of Alexandria by British frigates 350 

Failure of British attempt on Baltimore 351 

British harrying of New England coast 352 

Occupation of Castine, in Maine 353 

Destruction of the American frigate " Adams " 354 


Lake Champlain and New Orleans 

Arrival of large British re-enforcements in Canada 355 

Objects of the British northern campaign of 1814 35& 

Previous neglect of lake Champlain by both belligerents 357 

Operations on the laiie in 1813 358 

British attempt in spring of 1814 361 

Macdonough in control of lake, in summer of 1 8 1 4 362 

British " Confiance " building to contest control 362 

Instructions of British Government to Prevost 362 

Prevost in August reports approaching readiness to move 363 

Treasonable actions of American citizens about Lake Champlain . . . 364 

Izard, with four thousand troops, leaves Plattsburg for Sackett's Harbor 365 

Consequent destitution of the Champlain frontier 365 

British advance to Plattsburg 366 

Relative positions of American squadron and land forces 367 

Question of distance between squadron. and land batteries 368 

Opinions of Izard and Yeo as to the relations of the batteries to the 

squadron 370 

Proper combination for Prevost 371 

Backward state of " Confiance " upon Downie's taking command . . 372 

Urgent letters of Prevost to Downie 373 

Downie's expectations in attacking . 375 

Macdonough's dispositions 37& 

Downie's consequent plan of engagement 377 

Naval battle of Lake Champlain 377 

Decisive character of the American victory 381 

Preoccupation of the British Government with European conditions . 382 

Episodical character of the New Orleans expedition 382 

Negotiations of Admiral Cochrane for the co-operation of the Creek 

Indians ; 383 

His measures for training them, and preparations for the expedition . 384 

Objects of the British ministry 385 

Attack upon Fort Bowyer, Mobile Bay, by a British squadron .... 3S6. 
Previous occupation of West Florida to the I'erdido, by the United 

States 387 

Pensacola, remaining in Spanish hands, utilized by British 387 

Seized by Jackson, and works destroyed 388. 



Arrival of British expedition in Mississippi Sound 388 

Gunboat battle of Lake Borgne 390 

British advance corps reaches the bank of the Mississippi 391 

Night attack by American Na^y and Jackson 391 

Sir Edward Pakenham arrives from England 392 

His preliminary movements 392 

Particular danger of Jackson's position 393 

Details of the final day of assault, January 8, 1815 394 

The British withdraw after repulse 396 

Capture of Fort Bowyer, Mobile Bay 397 

Final naval episodes 397 

Sailing of the " President." She grounds on the New York bar . . . 398 

Overtaken, and is captured, by the British blockading division . . . 398 

The " Constitution " captures the " Cyane " and " Levant " .... 404 

Capture of the British sloop " Penguin " by the " Hornet " 407 


The Peace Negotiations 

Early overtures towards peace by the United States 409 

Castlereagh refuses to entertain the project of abandoning impressment 410 
Russia, in 1812, suggests negotiations for peace under mediation of the 

Czar 411 

United States accepts, hut Great Britain refuses 412 

Great Britain, through the Czar, offers a direct negotiation, 1813 . . 412 

The United States accepts, and names five commissiojiers 413 

The original instructions to the American Commission, 1813 .... 413 

Reduced, 1814, through pressure of the war 414 

Confident attitude of Great Britain at the opening of the negotiations . 415 

Hostile spirit in Great Britain towards the United States 415 

The instructions to the British Commission 416 

The demand on behalf of the Indians 417 

Faulty presentation of it by the British Commission 418 

British claim concerning the Great Lakes and boundaries 419 

Discussion of these propositions 419 

Reasons for British advocacy of the Indians 421 

Final reduction of British demand for the Indians and acceptance by 

American Commission . . 423 

Concern of British ministry for the opinion of Europe 424 

News received of the capture of Washington 424 

Sanguine anticipations based upon reports from Cochrane and Ross . 424 
The British Government suggests the uti possidetis as the basis of 

agreement 425 


The American Commission refuse, and offer instead the status ante 

bellum 426 

News arrives of the British defeat on Lake Champlain 426 

The political instructions to the commanders of the New Orleans ex- 
pedition, to be communicated for the satisfaction of the continental 

powers 427 

Urgency of the European situation 428 

Dangerous internal state of France 428 

Consequent wish of the British ministry to withdraw Wellington from 

Paris 429 

He is pressed to accept the American command 429 

Wellington thus brought into the discussion of terms 430 

He pronounces against the basis of u<t possirfei/s 431 

The British ministry accept his judgment 431 

The status ante bellum accepted by Great Britain 431 

Subsequent rapid conclusion of agreement 432 

Terms of the Treaty 432 

Signed by the commissioners, December 24, 1814 434 

Despatched to America by a British ship of war 435 

Ratified by the United States, February 17, 1815 435 

Gallatin's opinion of the effect of the war upon the people of the 

United States 436 

INDEX : 439 


The Chase of the Constitution Frontispiece 

From the ptunting by S. Salisboiy Tackerman. 

The Quarterdeck of the Java before the Sitrrekder Page 6 

From a drawing by Henry ReuterdahL 

The New Carryixg Trade " 18 

From a drawing by Stanley K. Aithors. 

The Retreat of the British from Sackett's Har- 
bor *' 44 

From a drawing by Hmiy BeaterdahL 

The Fleets of Chauncey and Teo maxcecvbixg ox 
Lake Champlain " 52 

Fkhq a drawing by Carlbm T. Chainnan. 

Captain Isaac Chacncey " 60 

From the aigraving by D. £dwin, after the painting by J. Woods. 

Captaix Sir James Lucas Yeo " 60 

From the engraring by H. K. Ckx>k, ;^ter the painting by A. Bock. 

Captaix Oliver Hazard Perry " 66 

From the painting by Gilbert Stoart, in the poaaession of O. H. 
Perry, Esq. 

Perry beceivixg the Surrender of the British at 
the Battle of Lake Erie « 94 

From a drawing by Henry ReuterdahL 

Captaix Philip Bowes Yere Broke " 134 

From the mezzotint by Charles Turner, after the painting by Samuel 
Lane, in the possession of Lady Saumarez. 


The Capturk of the Chesapeake by the Shannon — The 
Struggle on the Quarterdeck Page 138 

From a drawing by Henry Reuterdahl. 

Captain James Lawrence " 140 

From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, in the possession of the New Jersey 
Historical Society, Newark, N. J. 

The Burning of a Privateer Prize " 222 

From a drawing by Henry BeuterdahL 

Captain David Porter " 244 

From the painting by Charles Wilson Peale, in Independence Hall, 

Captain Thomas Macdonough " 360 

From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, in the Century Club, New York, 
by permission of the owner, Rodney Macdonough, Esq. 

The Battle of Lake Champlain " 380 

From a drawing by Henry BeuterdahL 



Plan of Engagement between Constitution and Java . . . Page 4 

Plan of Engagement between Hornet and Peacock ... " 8 

Map of Niagara Peninsula " 38 

Surroundings of Sackett's Harbor " 43 

Plan of Chauncey's Engagement, August 10, 1813 ... "58 

Plan of Erie Harbor, 1814 " 72 

Diagram of the Battle of Lake Erie, September 10, 1813 . " 82 

Chauncey and Yeo, September 28, 1813 ' " 108 

Chesapeake and Shannon " 136 

Outline Map of Chesapeake Bay and Rivers " 156 

Enterprise and Boxer " 188 

Argus and Pelican " 218 

Montague, Pelham, and Globe " 228 

Chasseur and St. Lawrence " 238 

Wasp and Reindeer " 254 

Sketch of the ^larch of the British Army, under General 

Ross, from the 19th to the 29th August, 1814 ... " 344 

Tracing from i)encil sketch of Battle of Lake Champlain 

made by Commodore Macdonough " 368 

Battle of Lake Champlain •. • • " 377 

The Landing of the British Army, its Encampments and 
Fortifications on the Mississippi ; Works they erected on 
their Retreat; with the Encampments and Fortifications 

of the American Army •' 392 

Sea Power in its Relations to 
the War of 1 8 1 2 

THE WAR (Continued) 



THE squadron under Commodore William Bain- 
bridge, the third which sailed from the United 
States in October, 1812, started nearly three 
weeks after the joint departure of Rodgers and 
Decatur. It consisted of the " Constitution " and sloop 
of war "Hornet," then in Boston, and of the "Essex," 
the only 32-gun frigate in the navy, fitting for sea in 
the Delaware. The original armament of the latter, from 
which she derived her rate, had been changed to forty 
32 -pounder carronades and six long twelves ; total, forty- 
six guns. It is noticeable that this battery, which ulti- 
mately contributed not merely to her capture, but to her 
almost helplessness under the fire of an enemy able to 
maintain his distance out of carronade range, was strongly 
objected to by Captain Porter. On October 14 he applied 

VOL. II. — 1 

2 THE WAR OF 1812 

to be transferred to the "Adams," giving as reasons "my 
insuperable dislike to carronades, and the bad sailing of 
the ' Essex,' which render her, in my opinion, the worst 
frigate in the service." ^ The request was not granted, and 
Porter sailed in command of the ship on October 28, the 
two other vessels having left Boston on the 26th. 

In order to facilitate a junction, Bainbridge had sent 
Porter full details of his intended movements. ^ A sum- 
mary of these will show his views as to a well-planned 
commerce-destroying cruise. Starting about October 25, 
he would steer first a course not differing greatly from the 
general direction taken by Rodgers and Decatur, to the 
Cape Verde Islands, where he would fill with water, and 
by November 27 sail for the island Fernando de Noronha, 
two hundred and fifty miles south of the Equator, and 
two hundred miles from the mainland of Brazil, then a 
Portuguese colony, of which the island was a dependency. 
The trade winds being fair for this passage, he hoped to 
leave there by December 15, and to cruise south along the 
Brazilian coast as far as Rio de Janeiro, until January 15. 
In the outcome the meeting of the "Constitution" with 
the "Java" cut short her proceedings at this point; but 
Bainbridge had purposed to stay yet another month along 
the Brazilian coast, between Rio and St. Catherine's, 
three hundred miles south. Thence he would cross the 
South Atlantic to the neighborhood of St. Helena, remain- 
ing just beyond sight of it, to intercept returning British 
Indiamen, which frequently stopped there. Porter failed 
to overtake the other vessels, on account of the bad sail- 
ing of the "Essex." He arrived at Fernando de Noronha 
December 14, one day before that fixed by Bainbridge as 
his last there ; but the " Constitution " and " Hornet " had 
already gone on to Bahia, on the Brazilian mainland, seven 

1 Captains' Letters. Navy Department. 

2 Ibid., Bainbridge, Oct. 13, 1812. 

THE WINTER OF 1812-181S 3 

hundred miles to the southwest, leaving a letter for him 
to proceed off Cape Frio, sixty miles from the entrance of 
Rio. He reached this rendezvous on the 2oth, but saw 
nothing of Bainbridge, who had been detained off Bahia 
by conditions there. The result was that the " Essex " 
never found her consorts, and finally struck out a career 
for herself, which belongs rather to a subsequent period 
of the war. We therefore leave her spending her Christ- 
mas off Cape Frio. 

The two other vessels had arrived off Bahia on De- 
cember 13. Here was lying a British sloop of war, the 
"Bonne Citoyenne," understood to have on board a very 
large amount of specie for England. The American 
vessels blockaded her for some days, and then Captain 
Lawrence challenged her to single combat; Bainbridge 
acquiescing, and pledging his honor that the "Constitu- 
tion " should remain oijt of the way, or at least not inter- 
fere. The British captain, properly enough, declined. 
That his ship and her reported value were detaining two 
American vessels from wider depredations was a reason 
more important than any fighting-cock glory to be had 
from an arranged encounter on equal terms, and should 
have sufficed him without expressing the doubt he did as 
to Bainbridge's good faith. ^ On the 26th the Commodore, 
leaving Lawrence alone to watch the British sloop, stood 
out to sea with the "Constitution," cruising well off 
shore; and thus on the 29th, at 9 a.m., being then five 
miles south of the port and some miles from land, dis- 
covered two strange sail, which were the British frigate 
"Java," Captain Henry Lambert, going to Bahia for water, 
with an American ship, prize to her. 

Upon seeing the " Constitution " in the south-southwest, 
the British captain shaped his course for her, directing 
the prize to enter the harbor. Bainbridge, watching 
1 Niles' Register, toL iv. p. 25. 

4 THE WAR OF 18 W 

these movements, now tacked his ship, and at 11.30 a.m. 
steered away southeast under all plain sail, to draw the 
enemy well away from neutral waters; the Portuguese 
authorities having shown some sensitiveness on that score. 
The " Java " followed, running full ten miles an hour, a 
great speed in those days, and gaining rapidly. At 1.30, 
being now as far off shore as desired, Bainbridge went 
about and stood toward the enemy, who kept away with 
a view to rake, which the " Constitution " avoided by the 
usual means of wearing, resuming her course southeast, 
but under canvas much reduced. At 2.10 the "Java," 
having closed to a half mile, the " Constitution " fired one 
gun ahead of her; whereupon the British ship hoisted her 
colors, and the American then fired two broadsides. The 
" Java " now took up a position to windward of the " Con- 
stitution," on her port side, a little forward (2.10); " within 
pistol-shot," according to the minutes submitted by the 
officer who succeeded to the command; "much further 
than I wished," by Bainbridge's journal. It is not pos- 
sible entirely to reconcile the pretty full details of further 
movements given by each; ^ but it may be said, generally, 
that this battle was not mainly an artillery duel, like those 
of the " Constitution " and " Guerriere," the " Wasp " and 
" Frolic, " nor yet one in which a principal manoeuvre, by 
its decisive effect upon the use of artillery, played the 
determining part, as was the case with the "United 
States" and "Macedonian." Here it was a combination 
of the two factors, a succession of evolutions resembling 
the changes of position, the retreats and advances, of a 
fencing or boxing match, in which the opponents work 
round the ring; accompanied by a continual play of the 

1 Bainbridge's report is in the Captains' Letters. Navy Department, Jan. 
3, 1813. It will be found also in Niles' Register, vol. iii. p. 410. Both give 
extracts from Bainbridge's journal, which is very full on the subject of 
manoeuvres and times. The British account will be found in the Naval 
Chronicle, vol. xxix. pp. 40.3-408, from which the plan of the battle is 


























guns, answering to the thrusts and blows of individual 
encounter. In this game of manoeuvres the "Constitu- 
tion " was somewhat handicapped by her wheel being 
shot away at 2.30. The rudder remained unharmed; 
but working a ship by relieving tackles, the substitute 
for the wheel, is for several reasons neither as quick nor 
as accurate. 

Certain salient incidents stand out in both accounts, 
marking the progress of the engagement. Shortly before 
three o'clock th^ head of the "Java's " bowsprit was shot 
away, and with it went the jib-boom. At this time, the 
fore and main masts of the British frigate being badly 
wounded, with all the rigging cut to pieces, Captain 
Lambert looked upon the day as lost unless he could 
board. The sailing master having been sent below 
wounded, the first lieutenant, whose account is here fol- 
lowed, was directed to run the ship alongside the enemy ; 
but the helm was hardly put up when the foremast went 
overboard, at five minutes past three, a time in which both 
accounts agree. The British narrative states that the 
stump of their bowsprit caught in the mizzen rigging of 
the "Constitution" (3.35). This Bainbridge does not 
mention; but, if correct, the contact did not last long, 
for the " Constitution " immediately wore across the 
"Java's " bow, and the latter's maintopmast followed 
the foremast. The British frigate was now beaten be- 
yond recovery; nevertheless the flag was kept flying, 
and it was after this that Captain Lambert fell, mortally 
wounded. Resistance was continued until 4.05, by the 
American accounts ; by the British, till 4. 35. Then, the 
enemy's mizzenmast having fallen, and nothing left stand- 
ing but the main lower mast, the " Constitution " shot 
ahead to repair damages. There was no more firing, but 
the "Java's" colors remained up till 5.25, — 5.50 by the 
British times, — when they were hauled down as the 

6 THE WAR OF 1812 

" Constitution " returned. The American loss was nine 
killed and twenty-five wounded; that of the British, by 
their official accounts, twenty-two killed, one hundred 
and two wounded. 

The superiority in broadside weight of fire of the " Con- 
stitution " over the " Java " was about the same as over 
the "Guerrifere." The "Java's" crew was stronger in 
number than that of the "Guerri^re," mustering about 
four hundred, owing to having on board a hundred super- 
numeraries for the East India station, to which the ship 
was ultimately destined. On the other hand, the material 
of the ship's company is credibly stated to have been ex- 
tremely inferior, a condition frequently complained of by 
British officers at this late period of the Napoleonic wars. 
It has also been said, in apparent extenuation of her 
defeat, that although six weeks oat from England, hav- 
ing sailed November 12, and greater part of that time 
necessarily in the trade winds, with their usual good 
weather, the men had not been exercised in firing the 
guns until December 28, the day before meeting the 
"Constitution," when six broadsides of blank cartridges 
were discharged. Whatever excuse may exist in the in- 
dividual instance for such neglect, it is scarcely receivable 
in bar of judgment when disaster follows. No particular 
reason is given, except "the many services of a newly 
fitted ship, lumbered with stores;" for in such latitudes 
the other allegation, " a succession of gales of wind since 
the day of departure," ^ is incredible. On broad general 
grounds the " Java " needed no apology for being beaten 
by a ship so much heavier ; and the " Constitution's " loss 
in killed and wounded was over double that suffered from 
the " Guerrifere " four months before, when the American 
ship had substantially the same crew.^ Further, Bain- 

1 James' Naval History, edition 1824, vol. v. p. 313. 

2 Baiiibridge in a private letter speaks of the men looking forward to prize 
money for the " Guerriere " on their return. Niles' Register, vol. iii. p. 411. 

Drawn by Henry Eeuterdahl. 


bridge reported to his Government that " the damage re- 
ceived in the action, but more especially the decayed state 
of the ' Constitution, ' made it necessary to return to the 
United States for repairs." Although Lieutenant Chads, 
who succeeded Lambert, was mistaken in supposing the 
American ship bound to the East Indies, he was evidently 
justified in claiming that the stout resistance of the " Java " 
had broken up the enemy's cruise, thus contributing to 
the protection of the British commerce. 

The " Java " was considered by Bainbridge too much 
injured to be worth taking to the L^nited States. She 
was therefore set on fire December 31, and the "Consti- 
tution " went back to Bahia, where the prisoners were 
landed under parole. Thence she sailed for home Janu- 
ary 6, 1813, reaching Boston February 27. Before his 
departure the Commodore directed Lawrence to blockade 
Bahia as long as seemed advisable, but to beware of a 
British seventy-four, said to be on the coast. When it 
became expedient, he was to quit the position and move 
northward ; first off Pernambuco, and thence to the coast 
of Cayenne, Surinam, and Demerara, a favorite cruising 
ground for American commerce-destroyers. The " Hor- 
net " was to be in Boston in the first fortnight of April. 

In pursuance of these discretionaiy ordei-s Lawrence 
remained off* Bahia for eighteen days, till January 24, 
when the expected seventy-four, the "Montagu," ap- 
peared, forcing him into the harbor; but the same night 
he came out, gave her the slip, and proceeded on his 
cruise. On February 24, off the Demarara River, he 
encountered the British brig of war " Peacock, " a vessel 
of the same class as the "Frolic," which was captured a 
few months before by the "Wasp," sister ship to the 
"Hornet." There was no substantial difference in size 
between these two approaching antagonists; but, unfor- 
tunately for the equality of the contest, the "Peacock" 

8 THE WAR OF 1812 

carried 24-pounder carronades, instead of the 32 's which 
were her proper armament. Her battery power was there- 
fore but two thirds that of the "Hornet." The vessels 
crossed on opposite tacks, exchanging broadsides within 
half pistol-shot, the " Hornet " to windward (1). The 
" Peacock " then wore ; observing which, Lawrence kept 
off at once for her and ran on board her starboard quar- 
ter (2). In this position the engagement was hot for 
about fifteen minutes, when the " Peacock " surrendered, 
hoisting a flag union down, in signal of distress. She 
had already six ' feet of water in the hold. Being on 
soundings, in less than six fathoms, both anchored, and 
every effort was made to save the British vessel ; but she 
sank, carrying down nine of her own crew and three of the 
"Hornet's." Her loss in action was her commander and 
four men killed, and twenty-nine wounded, of whom three 
died; that of the American vessel, one killed and two 
wounded. The inequality in armament detracts inevitably 
from glory in achievement ; but the credit of readiness and 
efficiency is established for Lawrence and his crew by 
prompt action and decisive results. So, also, defeat is 
not inglorious under such odds ; but it remains to the dis- 
credit of the British commander that his ship did no more 
execution, when well within the most effective range of 
her guns. In commenting upon this engagement, after 
noticing the dandy neatness of the "Peacock," James 
says, " Neglect to exercise the ship's company at the guns 
prevailed then over two thirds of the British navy; to 
which the Admiralty, by their sparing allowance of powder 
and shot for practice, were in some degree instrumental." 

With the survivors of the "Peacock," and prisoners 
from other prizes. Captain Lawrence found himself now 
with two hundred and seventy-seven souls on board and 
only thirty-four hundred gallons of water. There was at 
hand no friendly port where to deposit his captives, and 


' a 


Horner CZT^ 
Peacock t^li> 






THE WINTER OF 1812-1813 9 

provisions were running short. He therefore steered for 
the United States, and arrived at Holmes' Hole on 
March 19. ^ 

The capture of the " Peacock " was the last of five naval 
duels, three between frigates and two between sloops, all 
favorable in issue to the United States, which took place 
in what may justly be considered the first of the three 
periods into which the War of 1812 obviously divides. 
Great Britain, long reluctant to accept the fact of war 
as irreversible, did not begin to put forth her strength, 
or to exercise the measures of repression open to her, 
until the winter of 1812-13 was drawing to a close. On 
October 13, convinced that the mere news of the revo- 
cation of the Orders in Council would not induce any 
change in the American determination, the hitherto de- 
ferred authority for general reprisals was given ; but accom- 
panying them was an express provision that they were not to 
be understood as recalling the declaration which Warren had 
been commissioned to make, in order to effect a suspension 
of hostilities.^ On November 27, however, hopes from this 
source having apparently disappeared, directions were sent 
the admiral to institute a rigorous commercial blockade of 
Delaware and Chesapeake bays,^ the usual public notifica- 
tion of the fact to neutral Powers, for the information of 
their shipping affected by it, being issued December 26, 
three days before the action between the " Constitution " 
and "Java." On February 21, three days before the 
"Hornet" sank the "Peacock," Warren vn-ote that in 
compliance with the orders of November 27 this blockade 
had been put in force. The ship "Emily," from Balti- 
more for Lisbon, under a British license, with a cargo of 
flour, was turned back when attempting to go to sea from 

1 Lawrence's Report of these transactions is in Captains' Letters, March 
19, 1813. It will be found also in Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 84. 

2 Naval Chronicle, vol. xxviii. p. 30.5. 

' Admiralty to Warren, British Records Office. 

10 THE WAR OF 1812 

the Chesapeake, about February 5 ; Warren indorsing on 
her papers that the bay had been placed under rigorous 
blockade the day before.^ Captain Stewart, the senior 
United States officer at Norfolk, notified his Government 
of these facts on February 10. ^ Soon after, by an Order 
in Council dated March 30, the measure was extended to 
New York, Charleston, Port Royal, Savannah, and the 
Mississippi River. ^ Later in the year Warren, by a 
sweeping proclamation, dated November 16,* widened its 
scope to cover Long Island Sound, inside of Montauk and 
Black Point; the latter being on the Connecticut shore, eight 
miles west of New London. From thence it applied not 
only to the ports named, but to all inlets whatsoever, south- 
ward, as far as the Florida boundary. Narragansett Bay 
and the rest of New England remained still exempt. 

These restrictions, together with the increase of War- 
ren's force and the operations of 1813 in the Chesapeake, 
may be considered as initiating the second stage of the 
war, when Great Britain no longer cherished hopes of any 
other solution than by the sword, but still was restrained 
in the exercise of her power by the conflict with Napoleon. 
With the downfall of the latter, in April, 1814, began the 
third and final act, when she was more at liberty to let 
loose her strength, to terminate a conflict at once weaken- 
ing and exasperating. It is not without significance that 
the treaty of peace with the restored Bourbon government 
of France was signed May 30, 1814,^ and that on May 31 
was issued a proclamation placing under strict and rigor- 
ous blockade, not merely specified places, but "all the 
ports, harbors, bays, creeks, rivers, inlets, outlets, islands, 

1 Niles' Register, vol. iii. p. 383. 
■^ Captains' Letters. 

* Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 1.59. The Admiralty's letter to "Warren to 
institute this blockade is dated March 25. British Records Office. 

* Niles' Register, vol. v. p. 264. 

^ Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxi. p. 464. 

THE WINTER OF 1812-1813 H 

and sea-coasts of the United States," from the border of 
New Brunswick to that of Florida. ^ In form, this was only 
the public notification of a measure already instituted 
by Warren's successor, Cochrane, embracing Newport, 
Boston, and the East under restrictions heretofore limited 
to New York — including Long Island Sound — and the 
coast southward; but it was not merely the assertion of 
a stringent resolution. It was a clear defiance, in the 
assurance of conscious power, of a principal contention 
of the United States, that the measure of blockades 
against neutrals was not legitimately applicable to whole 
coasts, but only to specified ports closely watched by a 
naval force competent to its avowed purpose. 

Despite the gathering of the storm, the full force of 
which was to be expected in the spring, the United States 
ships of war that reached port in the early and middle 
winter of 1812-13 remained. There is, perhaps, an un- 
recognized element of " hindsight " in the surprise felt at 
this fact by a seaman of to-day, knowing the views and 
wishes of the prominent oflficers of the navy at that period. 
Decatur, with the "United States," reached New York in 
December, accompanied by the "Macedonian." Neither 
of these vessels got to sea again during the war. By the 
time they were ready, both outlets to the port were effectu- 
ally blocked. Rodgers, with the " President " and " Con- 
gress," entered Boston December 31, but did not sail again 
until April 23. The "Constellation," Captain Stewart, 
was reported, perhaps erroneously, as nearly ready for 
sea at Washington, November 26, waiting only for a 
few additional hands. Later in the winter she went to 
Annapolis, to examine her powder, leaving there for 
Hampton Roads February 1, on account of the ice. On 
the 4th, approaching her destination, she discovered two 
ships of the line, three frigates, and two smaller British 

• 1 Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxi. p. 475. 

12 THE WAR OF 181S 

vessels, working up from the Capes for the Roads. In 
the face of such a force there was nothing to do but to 
escape to Norfolk, where she remained effectually shut up 
for the rest of the war. Bainbridge, as already known, 
brought the " Constitution " back for repairs in February. 
Even from Boston she was unable to escape till the fol- 
lowing December. 

That there were satisfactory reasons for this seeming 
dilatoriness is assured by the character of the officers. 
Probably the difficulty of keeping up the ship's com- 
panies, in competition with the superior attractions of 
privateering and the very high wages offered by the mer- 
chants for their hazardous but remunerative commercial 
voyages accounted for much. Hull wrote from New 
York, October 29, 1812, that the merchants fitting out 
their vessels gave such high wages that it was difficult to 
get either seamen or workmen. ^ Where no system of 
forced enrolment — conscription or impressment — is per- 
mitted, privateering has always tended to injure the reg- 
ular naval service. Though unquestionably capable of 
being put by owners on a business basis, as a commercial 
undertaking, with the individual seaman the appeal of pri- 
vateering has always been to the stimulants of chance and 
gain, which prove so attractive in the lottery. Stewart, an 
officer of great intelligence and experience in his profession, 
found a further cause in the heavy ships of the enemy. In 
the hostilities with France in 1798-1800, he said, "We had 
nearly four thousand able seamen in the navy. We could 
frequently man a frigate in a week. One reason was be- 
cause the enemy we were then contending with had not 
afloat (with very few exceptions) vessels superior in rate 
to frigates. The enemy we are fighting now have ships 
of the line, and our sailors know the great difference be- 
tween them and frigates, and cannot but feel a degree of 

^ Captains' Letters. 

THE WINTER OF 1812-1813 13 

reluctance at entering the service from the disparity of 
force." 1 The reason seems to prove too much; pressed 
to an extreme, no navy would be able to use light vesesls, 
because the enemy had heavier which might — or might 
not — be encountered. Certain it is, however, that when 
the government in the following winter, in order to stop 
the license trade with the enemy, embargoed all vessels 
in home ports, much less difficulty was experienced in 
getting seamen for the navy. 

Whatever the reasons, the only frigates at sea during 
the first four months of 1813 were the " Essex " and the 
"Chesapeake." The former, after failing to meet Bain- 
bridge, struck off boldly for the Pacific Ocean on Porter's 
own motion ; and on March 15, 1813, anchored at Valpa- 
raiso, preparatory to entering on a very successful career 
of a year's duration in those seas. The "Chesapeake" 
had sailed from Boston December 17, making for the 
Cape Verde Islands. In their neighborhood she captured 
two of a British convoy, which, thinking itself beyond 
danger, had dispersed for South American destinations. 
The frigate then proceeded to her cruising ground near 
the equator, between longitudes 24° and 30° west, where 
she remained for about a month, taking only one other 
merchantman. Leaving this position, she was off the 
coast of Surinam from March 2 to 6, when she returned 
to the United States; passing sixty miles east of the 
Caribbean Islands and thence north of Porto Rico and 
Santo Domingo, as far west as longitude 75°, whence 
she ran parallel to the American coast, reaching Boston 
April 9. Having seen nothing between Februar}- 5 and 
March 19, she then began to meet sails, speaking 
eight between the latter date and her arrival. Most of 
these were Americans, homeward bound from the Spanish 
peninsula ; the others neutrals. ^ The conclusion is evident, 

1 American State Papers, Naval Affairs, vol. i. p. 280. 

^ Captain Evans' Report, April 10, 1813. Captains' Letters. 

14 THE WAR OF 1812 

that the British were keeping their trade well shepherded 
in convoys. If a ship like the " Chesapeake " struck one 
of them, she would probably have to fight the escorting 
vessel, as the "Wasp" did the "Frolic," while the mer- 
chantmen escaped ; but the chances were against her see- 
ing anything. Another evident conclusion, corresponding 
to the export returns already quoted, is that the enemy had 
not yet shut down upon the access of American merchant 
ships to their own coast. 

This process was gradual, but steady. It is necessary 
to keep in mind the distinction between a blockade, in 
the loose use of the term, which closes a port only to the 
ships of the hostile nation, and the commercial blockade 
which forbids neutrals as well. The former may be in- 
termittent, for the mere fact of war authorizes the capture 
of the belligerent's shipping, wherever found; hence to 
intercept them at the mouths of their own harbors is 
merely a more effectual method of carrying out the meas- 
ure. A blockade against neutrals requires the perma- 
nent presence, before the blockaded port, of a force 
adequate to make the attempt to enter or leave danger- 
ous. For this many more ships are needed. The British 
ministry, desirous chiefly to compel the United States to 
peace, and embarrassed by the gigantic continental strife 
in which it was engaged, sought at the outset to inflict 
such harassment on the American coast as would cost the 
least diversion of strength from the European contest. An 
ordinary blockade might be tightened or relaxed as con- 
venience demanded; and, moreover, there were as yet, in 
comparison with American vessels, few neutrals to be re- 
strained. Normally, American shipping was adequate to 
American commerce. The first move, therefore, was to 
gather upon the coast of the United States all cruisers 
that could be spared from the Halifax and West India 
stations, and to dispose along the approaches to the prin- 

THE WINTER OF 1812-1813 15 

cipal ports those that were not needed to repress the pri- 
vateers in the Bay of Fundy and the waters of Nova 
Scotia. The action of these privateei-s, strictly offensive 
in character, and the course of Commodore Rodgers in 
sailing with a large squadron, before explained, illustrate 
exactly how offensive operations promote defensive secur- 
ity. With numbers scanty for their work, and obliged 
to concentrate instead of scattering, the British, prior to 
Warren's arrival, had not disposable the cruisers with 
which greatly to harass even the hostile shipping, still 
less to institute a commercial blockade. The wish to 
stock the Spanish peninsula and the West Indies with 
provisions contributed further to mitigate the pressure. 

These restraining considerations gradually disappeared. 
Re-enforcements arrived. Rodgers' squadron returned 
and could be watched, its position being known. The 
license trade filled up Lisbon, Cadiz, and the West Indies. 
Hopes of a change of mind in the American Government 
lessened. Napoleon's disaster in Russia reversed the 
outlook in European politics. Step by step the altered 
conditions were reflected in the measures of the British 
ministry and navy. For months, only the maritime cen- 
tres of the Middle States were molested. The senior 
naval officer at Charleston, South Carolina, wrote on 
October 14, four months after war was declared, "Till 
to-day this coast has been clear of enemy's cruisers; now 
Charleston is blockaded by three brigs, two very large, 
and they have captured nine sail within three miles of the 
bar." 1 The number was increased shortly ; and two montiis 
later he expressed surprise that the inland navigation be- 
hind the sea islands had not been destroyed, ^ in conse- 
quence of its defenceless state. In Januarj-, 1813, the 
mouth of the Chesapeake was watched by a ship of the 
line, two frigates, and a sloop; the commercial blockade 

1 Captains' Letters. » Ibid, Dec. 17, 1812. 

16 THE WAR OF 1812 

not having been yet established. The hostile divisions still 
remained outside, and American vessels continued to go 
out and in with comparative facility, both there and at 
Charleston. A lively trade had sprung up with France 
by letters-of-marque ; that is, by vessels whose primary 
object is commerce, and which therefore carry cargoes, 
but have also guns, and a commission from the Govern- 
ment to make prizes. Without such authorization cap- 
ture is piracy. By February 12 conditions grow worse. 
The blockaders have entered the Chesapeake, the com- 
mercial blockade has been proclaimed, vessels under 
neutral flags, Spanish and S^vedish, are being turned 
away, and two fine letter-of-marque schooners have been 
captured inside, one of them after a gallant struggle in 
which her captain was killed. Nautical misadventures 
of that kind became frequent. On April 3 three letters- 
of-marque and a privateer, which had entered the Rappa- 
hannock, were attacked at anchor by boats from Warren's 
fleet. The letters-of-raarque, with smaller crews, offered 
little resistance to boarding; but the privateer, having 
near a hundred men, made a sharp resistance. The 
Americans lost six killed and ten wounded; the enemy, 
two killed and eleven wounded. ^ 

In like manner the lower Delaware was occupied by 
one or more ships of the line. Supported thus by a heavy 
squadron, hostile operations were pushed to the upper 
waters of both bays, and in various directions; the ex- 
tensive water communications of the region offering great 
facilities for depredation. Dismay and incessant dis- 
quietude spread through all quarters of the waterside. 
Light cruisers make their way above Reedy Island, fifty 
miles from the Capes of the Delaware; coasting ves- 
sels are chased into the Severn River, over a hundred 
miles above Hampton Roads; and a detachment appears 

1 Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 119. Naval Chronicle, vol. xxix. p. 501. 


even at the mouth of the Patapsco, twelve miles from 
Baltimore. The destruction of bay craft, and interrup- 
tion of water traffic, show their effects in the rise of 
marketing and fuel to double their usual prices. By- 
May 1, all intercourse by water was stopped, and Phila- 
delphia was also cut off from the lower Delaware. Both 
Philadelphia and Baltimore were now severed from the 
sea, and their commerce destroyed, not to revive till 
after the peace; while alarms, which the near future 
was to justify, were felt for the land road which con- 
nected the two cities. As this crossed the head waters 
of the Chesapeake, it was open to attack from ships, 
which was further invited by deposits of goods in tran- 
sit at Elkton and Frenchtown. Fears for the safety of 
Norfolk were felt by Captain Stewart, senior naval officer 
there. " When the means and force of the enemy are con- 
sidered, and the state of this place for defence, it pre- 
sents but a gloomy prospect for security." ^ Commodore 
Murray from Philadelphia reports serious apprehensions, 
consternation among the citizens, a situation daily more 
critical, and inadequate provision for resistance. ^ There, 
as everywhere, the impotence of the General Government 
has to be supplemented by local subscription and local 

At the same time, both northward and southward of 
these two great estuaries, the approach of spring brought 
ever increasing enemies, big and little, vexing the coast- 
ing trade; upon which, then as now, depended largelv 
the exchange of products between different sections of 
the country. What it meant at that day to be reduced 
to communication by land may be realized from a con- 
temporary quotation : " Four wagons loaded with dry goods 
passed to-day through Georgetown, South Carolina, for 

1 March 17. 1813. Captains' I/etters. 
« March 17, 18, and 21. Ibid. 

18 THE WAR OF 1812 

Charleston, /or^^-siic days from Philadelphia." ^ Under 
the heading "New Carrying Trade" a Boston paper an- 
nounces on April 28 the arrival of "a large number of 
teams from New Bedford with West India produce, and 
four Pennsylvania wagons, seventeen days from Phila- 
delphia." ^ "The enemy has commenced his depredations 
on the coasting trade of the Eastern States on a very ex- 
tensive scale, by several ships and sloops-of-war, and five 
or six active privateers. The United States brig 'Argus ' 
cruises at the entrance of Long Island Sound for the pro- 
tection of trade, latterly jeopardized ; " ^ a position from 
which she was soon driven by an overwhelming force. 
Hull, now commanding at Portsmouth, reports April 9, 
"several privateers on the Eastern coast, which have been 
successful in cutting coasters out of several harbors east." 
May 7 : " A small force is indeed needed here ; the enemy 
appear off the harbor nearly every day. A few days since, 
a little east of this, they burnt twelve coasters and chased 
several into this port."* The town is defenceless. The 
Governor of Rhode Island laments to the Legislature " the 
critical and exposed situation of our fellow-citizens in 
Newport, who are frequently menaced by the ships and 
vessels about Point Judith " ; mentioning beside, " the 
burning of vessels in Narragansett Bay^ and the destruc- 
tion of our coasting trade, which deprives us of the usual 
and very necessary supplies of bread stuffs from other 
States."^ The ship "Maddox," blockaded for two or 
three months in the Chesapeake, escaped in May, and 
reached Newport with five thousand barrels of flour. 
This is said to have reduced the price by $2.50 in Bos- 
ton, where it was ranging at $17 to fl8; while at Cadiz 

^ Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 222. 

* Columbian Ceutinel. 

* Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 117. 

* Captains' Letters. 

* Message of the Governor of Rhode Island, May 5, 1813. 


THE SPRING OF 1813 19 

and Lisbon, thanks to British licenses and heavy stocking 
in anticipation of war, it stood at SI 2 to $13. The ar- 
rival at Machias of a captured British vessel, laden with 
wheat, was hailed " as a seasonable supply for the starv- 
ing inhabitants of the eastward."^ 

Ships returning from abroad necessarily had to pass 
through the cruisei-s which interrupted the coasting 
trade. "Many valuable vessels arrive, making at times 
hairbreadth escapes, " The trade of Baltimore and Phila- 
delphia is thrown back upon New York and Boston ; but 
both of these, and the eastern entrance of Long Island 
Sound, have hostile squadrons before them. The letter- 
of-marque schooner " Xed " has transmitted an experience 
doubtless undergone by many. Bound to Baltimore, she 
arrived off the Chesapeake April 18, and was chased 
away; tried to get into the Delaware on the 19th, but 
was headed off; made for Sandy Hook, and was again 
chased. Finally, she tried the east end of the Sound, 
and there made her way through four or five ships of 
war, reaching New York April 24. ^ Of course, under 
such circumstances trade rapidly dwindled. Only very 
fast and weatherly vessels could hope to cope with the 
difiiculties. Of these the conspicuous type was the Balti- 
more schooner, which also had not too many eggs in one 
basket. In the general deprivation of commerce a lucky 
voyage was proportionately remunerative; but the high 
prices of the successful venture were but the comple- 
ment and reflection of suffering in the community. The 
harbors, even of New York, became crowded with unem- 
ployed shipping. 

This condition of things coastwise, supplemented by 
the activity of American privateers, induced abnormal 

1 Niles' Register, toI. ir. pp. 200, 209. There were reported in Cadiz at 
this time 160,000 barrels of flour, unsold. The Columbian Ceutinel (Feb. 17) 
speaks of the Lisbon market as deplorable. 

' Niles' Register, vol. ir. p. 150. 

20 THE WAR OF 1812 

conditions of navigation in the western Atlantic. The 
scanty success of Rodgers, Bainbridge, and the "Chesa- 
peake" have been noted; and it may be observed that 
there was a great similarity in the directions taken by 
these and others. The Cape Verdes, the equator be- 
tween 24° and 30° west, the Guiana coast, the eastern 
West Indies, Bermuda to Halifax, indicate a general line 
of cruising; with which coincides substantially a project 
submitted by Stewart, March 2, 1813, for a cruise by the 
"Constellation." These plans were conceived with intel- 
ligent reference to known British trade-routes ; but, being 
met by the enemy with a rigid convoy system, it was often 
hard to find a sail. The scattered American traders were 
rapidly diminishing in numbers, retained in port as they 
arrived; and it is noted that a British division of four 
vessels, returning to Halifax after a four months' cruise 
between the Banks of Newfoundland and Bermuda, have 
captured only one American. ^ An American privateer, 
arriving at Providence after an absence of nearly four 
months, "vexing the whole Atlantic," reports not seeing 
a single enemy's merchant ship. Niles' return of prizes ^ 
to American cruisers, national as well as privateers, gives 
three hundred and five as the total for the first six months 
of the war ; of which seventy-nine only seem to have been 
taken distant from the home shores. For the second six 
months, to June 30, 1813, the aggregate has fallen to one 
hundred and fifty-nine, of which, as far as can be probably 
inferred, ninety-one were captured in remote waters. Com- 
paring with the preceding and subsequent periods, we find 
here evidently a time of transition, when American enter- 
prise had not yet aroused to the fact that British precau- 
tion in the Western Hemisphere had made it necessary to 
seek prizes farther afield. 

In view of the incompleteness of the data it is difficult 

1 Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 101, ^ ibid., p. 117. 


THE SPRING OF 1813 21 

to state more than broad conclusions. It seems fairly 
safe, however, to say that after the winter of 1812-13 
American commerce dwindled very rapidly, till in 1814 
it was practically annihilated; but that, prior to Napo- 
leon's downfall, the necessities of the British Govern- 
ment, and the importunity of the British mercantile 
community, promoted a certain collusive intercourse by 
licenses, or by neutrals, real or feigned, between the 
enemy and the Eastern States of the Union, for the ex- 
portation of American produce. This trade, from the 
reasons which prompted it, was of course exempt from 
British capture. Subsidiary to it, as a partial relief to the 
loss of the direct American market, was fostered an indirect 
smuggling import from Great Britain, by way of Halifax 
and Montreal, which conduced greatly to the prosperity 
of both these places during the war, as it had during the 
preceding periods of commercial restriction. It was to 
maintain this contraband traffic, as well as to foster dis- 
affection in an important section of the Union, that the 
first extension of the commercial blockade, issued by 
Warren from Bermuda, May 26, 1813, stopped short of 
Newport; while the distinction thus drawn was empha- 
sized, by turning back vessels even with British licenses 
seeking to sail from the Chesapeake. By this insidious 
action the commercial prosperity of the country, so far 
as any existed, was centred about the Eastern States. 
It was, however, almost purely local. Little relief 
reached the Middle and South, which besides, as before 
mentioned, were thus drained of specie, while their prod- 
ucts lay idle in their stores. 

As regards relative captures made by the two belliger- 
ents, exact numbers cannot be affirmed ; but from the lists 
transmitted a fairly correct estimate can be formed as to 
the comparative injury done in this way. It must be re- 
membered that such losses, however grievous in them- 

22 THE WAR OF 1812 

selves, and productive of individual suffering, have by 
no means the decisive effect produced by the stoppage 
of commerce, even though such cessation involves no 
more than the retention in harbor of the belligerent's 
ships, as the Americans were after 1812, or as had been 
the case during Jefferson's embargo of 1808. As that 
measure and its congeners failed in their object of bring- 
ing the British Government to terms, by deprivation of 
commerce, the pecuniary harm done the United States by 
them was much greater than that suffered in the previous 
years from the arbitrary action of Great Britain. She had 
seized, it was alleged, as many as nine hundred and seven- 
teen American vessels, ^ many of which were condemned 
contrary to law, while the remainder suffered loss from 
detention and attendant expenses; but despite all this the 
commercial prosperity was such that the commercial classes 
were averse to resenting the insults and injury. It was 
the agricultural sections of the country, not the commer- 
cial, which forced on the war. 

Niles' Register has transmitted a careful contemporary 
compilation of American captures, in closing which the 
editor affirmed that in the course of the war he had ex- 
amined not less than ten, perhaps twelve, thousand col- 
umns of ship news, rejecting all prizes not accounted for by 
arrival or destruction. It is unlikely that data complete as 
he used are now attainable, even if an increase of accuracy 
in this point were worth the trouble of the search. Up to 
May 1, 1813, he records four hundred and eleven captures, 
in which are included the British ships of war as well 
as merchantmen; not a very material addition. The 
British Naval Chronicle gives the prize lists of the vari- 
ous British admirals. From these may be inferred in the 
same period at least three hundred seizures of American 

1 American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 584. France in the 
same period had seized five hundred and fifty-eight. 

THE SPRING OF 1813 23 

merchant vessels. Among these are a good many Chesa- 
peake Bay craft, very small. This excludes privateers, 
but not letters-of-marque, which are properly cargo ships. 
Both figures are almost certainly underestimates ; but not 
improbably the proportion of four to three is nearly cor- 
rect. Granting, however, that the Americans had seized 
four British ships for every three lost by themselves, what 
does the fact establish as regards the effect upon the com- 
merce of the two peoples ? Take the simple report of a 
British periodical in the same month of May, 1813: "We 
are happy to announce the arrival of a valuable fleet from 
the West Indies, consisting of two hundred and twenty- 
six sail, under convoy of the * Cumberland, ' seventy-four, 
and three other ships of war."i This one fleet among 
many, safely entering port, numbers more than half of their 
total losses in the twelvemonth. Contrast this relative 
security with the experience of the "Ned," cited a few 
pages back, hunted from headland to headland on her 
home coast, and slipping in — a single ship by dexterous 
management — past foes from whom no countryman can 
pretend to shield her. 

Even more mortifying to Americans, because under 
their very eyes, in sharp contrast to their sufferings, was 
the prosperity of Halifax and Canada. Vexed though 
British commerce was by the daring activity of Ameri- 
can cruisers, the main streams continued to flow ; dimin- 
ished in volume, but not interrupted. The closure of 
American harbors threw upon the two ports named the 

1 Naval Chronicle, vol. xxix. p. 497. The following extract from an 
American journal may have interest as indicating the extent of the British 
convoy movement. " American brig ' Hazard,' arrived at New York from 
Madeira. June 5, reports: ' April 11, arrived at Fnnchal the ontward bound 
East India and Brazil fleets, forty sail, under convoy. Sailed April 12. 
April 21, arrived outward bound Cork fleet, one hundred and eighty sail 
convoyed by a seventy-four, a frigate, and a sloop.' April 30, sailed from 
Jamaica, three hundred merchantmen, under convoy of a seventy-four, two 
frigates and a sloop." (Columbian Centinel, of Boston, June 9, 1813.) 

24 THE WAR OF 1812 

business of- supplying American products to the British 
forces, the British West Indies, and in measure to Great 
Britain itself. The same reason fixed in them the de- 
posit of British goods, to be illicitly conveyed into the 
United States by the smuggling that went on actively 
along the northern seacoast and land frontier; a revival 
of the practices under the embargo of 1808. This under- 
ground traffic was of course inadequate to compensate for 
that lost by the war and the blockade ; but it was quite 
sufficient to add immensely to the prosperity of these 
places, the communications of which with the sea were 
held open and free by the British navy, and in which 
centred what was left from one of the most important 
branches of British trade in the days of peace. Halifax, 
from its position on the sea, was the chief gainer. The 
effects of the war on it were very marked. Trade was 
active. Prices rose. Provisions were in great demand, 
to the profit of agriculture and fisheries. Rents doubled 
and trebled. The frequent arrival of prizes, and of ships 
of war going and coming, added to the transactions, and 
made money plentiful. ^ 

Recalling the generalization already made, that the sea- 
coast of the United States was strictly a defensive frontier, 
it will be recognized that the successive institution of the 
commercial blockades, first of the Chesapeake and Dela- 
ware in March, and afterward of the whole coast south 
of Newport, in May, were the offensive operations with 
which the British initiated the campaign of 1813. These 
blockades were supported, and their effects sustained and 
intensified, by an accumulation of naval force entirely 
beyond the competition of the American navy. In view 
of such overwhelming disparity, it was no longer possible, 
as in 1812, by assembling a squadron, to impose some 
measure of concentration upon the enemy, and thus to 

1 Murdoch's History of Nova Scotia, vol. iii. p. 351. 

THE SPRING OF 1813 25 

facilitate egress and ingress. The movements of the 
British had passed wholly beyond control. Their admiral 
was free to dispose his fleet as he would, having care 
only not to hazard a detachment weaker than that in the 
port watched. This was a condition perfectly easy of ful- 
filment with the numbers under his command. As a matter 
of fact, his vessels were distributed over the entire sea- 
coast; and at every point, with the possible exception of 
Boston, the division stationed was so strong that escape 
was possible only by evasion, under cover of severe weather 

Under such circumstances, the larger the ship the more 
diflficult for her to get out. As early as the middle of 
April, Captain Jones, formerly of the "Wasp," and now 
commanding the " Macedonian " in New York, reports 
that "both outlets are at present strongly blocked, but I 
believe at dark of the moon we shall be able to pass with- 
out much risk."i May 22, when a moon had come and 
gone, Decatur, still on board the "United States," in 
company with which the " Macedonian " was to sail, thinks 
it will be better to try the Sound route. " The last gale, 
which promised the fairest opportunity for us to get out, 
ended in light southerly winds, which continued till the 
blockading ships had regained their stations." ^ A few 
days later, the attempt by the Sound resulted in the 
two being driven into New London, where they remained 
to the close of the war. The only offensive operation by 
sea open to the United States, the destruction of the 
enemy's commerce, fell therefore to the smaller cruisers 
and privateers, the size and numbers of which combined 
to make it impossible to restrain them all. 

For defensive measures the seaboard depended upon 
such fortifications as existed, everywhere inadequate, but 
which either the laxness or the policy of the British com- 

1 Captains' Letters, April 13, 1813. « Ibid., May 22. 

26 THE WAR OF 1812 

mander did not attempt to overcome in the case of the 
seaports, narrowly so called. The wide-mouthed estu- 
aries of the Chesapeake and Delaware, entrance to which 
could not thus be barred, bore, therefore, the full brunt 
of hostile occupation and widespread harassment. In 
this there may have been deliberate intention, as well as 
easy adoption of the readiest means of annoyance. The 
war, though fairly supported in the middle section of the 
Union, was essentially a Southern and Western measure. 
Its most strenuous fomenters came from those parts, and 
the administration was Virginian. The President him- 
self had been identified with the entire course of Jeffer- 
son's commercial retaliation, and general policy toward 
Great Britain during twelve years past. It is impossible 
for land forces alone to defend against naval aggression 
a region like the Chesapeake, with its several great, and 
numerous small, streams penetrating the country in every 
direction ; and mattere are not helped when the defendants 
are loosely organized militia. The water in such a case 
offers a great central district, with interior lines, in the 
hands of a power to which belongs the initiative, with an 
overpowering mobile force, able at any moment to appear 
where it will in superior strength. 

No wonder then that the local journals of the day speak 
of continual watchfulness, which from the present organi- 
zation of the militia is exceedingly toilsome, and of no 
little derangement to the private affairs of the people. ^ 
The enemy spreads in every direction; and, although 
the alarm caused much exceeds the injury done, dis- 
quietude is extreme and universal. "Applications from 
various quarters are constantly pouring in upon us," wrote 
a Governor of Maryland to the President ; " and as far as 
our very limited means will enable us we are endeavoring 
to afford protection. But we have not arms and ammu- 

1 Niles' Register, vol. iv..p. 134. 

THE SPRING OF 1813 27 

nition to supply the demands of every section of the State; 
the unavoidable expense of calling out the militia for its 
protection would greatly exceed the ability of the State 
government. The capital of the State [which was three 
miles from the bay, on a navigable river] has not suffi- 
cient force for its protection. By the Constitution of the 
United States, the common defence is committed to the 
National Government, which is to protect each State 
against invasion, and to defray all necessary expenses of 
a national war; and to us it is a most painful reflection 
that after every effort we have made, or can make, for the 
security of our fellow-citizens and of their property, they 
have little to rely on but the possible forbearance of the 
enemy."! The process of reaping what has been sowed is 
at times extremely unpleasant. 

^ Letter of GoTcmor Winder, April 26, 1813. Niles' Register, toL iv. 
p. 204. 



IN April, 1813, on the land frontier of the north and 
west, no substantial change had taken place in the 
conditions which gave to the United States the power 
of the offensive. Such modification as Chauncey's 
energy had effected was to strengthen superiority, by 
promising ultimate control of the upper and lower lakes. 
The British had not been idle; but the greater natural 
difficulties under which they labored, from less numerous 
population and less advanced development of the country 
and its communications, together with a greater severity 
of climate, had not been compensated by a naval direction 
similar to that exercised by the American commodore and 
his efficient second. Perry. Sir John Warren had been 
ordered to pay attention to the lakes, the naval service of 
which was placed under his charge. This added to his 
responsibilities, and to the drain upon his resources of 
men and materials; but, with an oversight already ex- 
tending from Halifax to Jamaica and Barbados, he could 
do little for the lakes, beyond meeting requisitions of the 
local authorities and furnishing a draft of officers. Among 
those sent from his fleet was Captain Barclay, who com- 
manded the British squadron in Perry's action. 

The Admiralty, meantime, had awaked to the necessity of 
placing preparations and operations under competent naval 
guidance, if command of the water was to be secured. 
For that purpose they selected Captain Sir James Lucas 


Yeo, a young officer of much distinction, just turned thirty, 
who was appointed to the general charge of the lake ser- 
vice, under Warren. Leaving England in March, accom- 
panied by a body of officers and seamen, Yeo did not reach 
Kingston until May 15, 1813, when the campaign was 
already well under way ; having been begun by Dearborn 
and Chauncey April 24. His impressions on arrival were 
discouraging. He found the squadron in a weak state, 
and the enemy superior in fact and in promise. They 
had just succeeded in burning at York a British vessel 
intended for thirty guns, and they had, besides, vessels 
building at Sackett's Harbor. He had set to work, how- 
ever, getting his force ready for action, and would go 
out as soon as possible to contest the control of Ontario ; 
for upon that depended the tenure of Upper Canada.^ 
Barclay, upon the arrival of his superior, was sent on to 
Amherstburg, to fulfil upon Erie the same relation to Y'^eo 
that Perry did to Chauncey. 

It had been clearly recognized by the American authori- 
ties that any further movement for the recapture of Detroit 
and invasion of Canada would depend upon the command 
of Lake Erie ; and that that in turn would depend largely 
upon mastery of Ontario. In fact, the nearer the sea 
control over the water communications could be estab- 
lished, the more radical and far-reaching the effect pro- 
duced. For this reason, Montreal was the true objective 
of American effort, but the Government's attention from 
the first had centred upon the northwestern territory; 
upon the extremity of the enemy's power, instead of 
upon its heart. Under this prepossession, despite ade- 
quate warning, it had persisted in the course of which 
Hull's disaster was the outcome; and now, though 
aroused by this stunning humiliation, its understanding 
embraced nothing beyond the Great Lakes. Clear in- 

1 Yeo to Croker, May 26, 1813. Admiralty In-Letters, Records Office. 

30 THE WAR OF 1812 

dication of this narrow outlook is to be found in the 
conditions on Lake Champlain, the natural highway to 
Canada. Only the scantiest mention is to be found of 
naval preparation there, because actually little was being 
done; and although the American force was momentarily 
superior, it was so simply because the British, being in 
Canada wholly on the defensive, and therefore obliged to 
conform to American initiative, contemplated no use of 
this lake, the mastery of which, nevertheless, was soon 
afterward thrown into their hands by a singularly un- 
fortunate occurrence. 

Dearborn, who still remained in chief command of the 
armies on the New York frontier, was therefore directed to 
concentrate his effort upon Ontario, starting from Sackett's 
Harbor as a base. Chauncey, whose charge extended no 
farther than the upper rapids of the St. Lawrence, had of 
course no other interest. His first plan, transmitted to 
the Navy Department January 21, 1813,^ had been to pro- 
ceed immediately upon the opening of navigation, with the 
fleet and a land force of a thousand picked troops, against 
Kingston, the capture of which, if effected, would solve at 
a single stroke every difficulty in the upper territory. No 
other harbor was tenable as a naval station; with its fall, 
and the destruction of shipping and forts, would go the 
control of the lake, even if the place itself were not per- 
manently held. Deprived thus of the water communica- 
tions, the enemy could retain no position to the westward, 
because neither re-enforcements nor supplies could reach 
them. To quote Chauncey's own words, "I have no 
doubt we should succeed in taking or destroying their 
ships and forts, and, of course, preserve our ascendency 
on this lake." 

This remark, though sound, was narrow in scope ; for 
it failed to recognize, what was perfectly knowable, that 

1 Captains' Letters, Navy Department. 


the British support of the Lake Erie stations and the upper 
country depended on their power to control, or at worst to 
contest, Ontario. Of this they themselves were conscious, 
as the words of Yeo and Brock alike testify. The new 
American Secretaiy of War, Armstrong, who was a man 
of correct strategical judgment and considerable military 
information, entered heartily into this view; and in a 
letter dated February 10 communicated to Dearborn the 
orders of the President for his operations, based upon the 
Secretary's recommendation. ^ Four thousand men were to 
be assembled at Sackett's, and three thousand at Buffalo. 
The former, under convoy of the fleet, was to proceed first 
against Kingston, then against York (Toronto). After 
this the two corps should co-operate in an attack to be 
made upon the British Niagara frontier, which rested upon 
Fort George on the Ontario shore, and Fort Erie upon 
Lake Erie. This plan was adopted upon the assumption, 
which was probably correct, that the enemy's entire mili- 
tary force upon Ontario did not exceed twenty-one hundred 
regular troops, of whom six hundred were at Kingston 
and twelve hundred at Niagara. Armstrong, who recog- 
nized the paramount importance of Montreal, had received 
the exaggerated impression that there might be in that 
neighborhood eight to ten thousand regulars. There were 
not yet nearly that number in all Canada ; ^ but he was 
perhaps correct in thinking that the provision for the offen- 
sive, which he had found upon taking office a few weeks 
before, was insufficient for an advance in that quarter. 

Dearborn very soon discovered objections to proceeding 
against Kingston, in his own estimates of the enemy's 
numbers, based upon remarkable reports received from 

1 American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i. p. 439. 

2 Between July, 1812, and March 25, 1813, Prevost received re-enforce- 
ments amounting in all to 2,1 75 regulars. His total force then, for all Canada, 
excluding militia, was 9,177 ; of which 2,000 were provincial corps. British 
Ee<;ords OflSce. 

32 THE WAR OF 1812 

sources "entitled to full credit." On March 3 he was 
satisfied that from six to eight thousand men had been as- 
sembled there from Quebec, Montreal, and Upper Canada ; 
while the presence of Sir George Prevost, the Governor 
General, and commander-in-chief in Canada, who had 
seized an opportunity to make a hurried visit to Kingston 
to assure himself as to the progress of the ships building, 
convinced the American general that an attack upon 
Sackett's was contemplated. ^ From that time forward 
Dearborn realized in his own person the process of mak- 
ing pictures to one's self concerning a military situation, 
against which Napoleon uttered a warning. Chauncey 
was more sceptical, although he could not very well avoid 
attention to the reports brought in. He expresses himself 
as believing that a considerable number of men had been 
assembled in Kingston, but that their real object was to 
proceed against Harrison in the Far West.^ 

There seems to have been no foundation for any of these 
alarms. Prevost was a soldier of good reputation, but 
wanting in initiative, audacity, and resolution, as the cur- 
rent war was to prove. His presence at Kingston at this 
moment was simply one incident in a rapid official visit 
to the upper military posts, extending as far as Niagara, 
and accomplished in four weeks ; for, leaving Quebec Feb- 
ruary 17, he was again writing from there on the 17th of 
March. As far as can be deduced from his correspond- 
ence, four companies of regulars had preceded him from 
Montreal to Kingston, and there may very well have been 
a gathering of local forces for inspection or otherwise ; but 
no re-enforcements of regulars, other than that just men- 
tioned, reached Kingston from down the river before May. 
Dearborn never renounced his belief in the meditated at- 

1 American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i. p. 441 . 

2 Chauncey to Navy Department, March 8, 12, and 16, 1813. Captains' 


tack, though finally satisfied that it was abandoned; and 
his positive reports as to the enemy's numbers wrung 
from Armstrong acquiescence in a change of plan, by 
which York, and not Kingston , should be the first object 
of the campaign. 1 

Chauncey, who had some sound military ideas, as his 
first plan showed, was also brought round to this conclu- 
sion by a process of reasoning which he developed in a 
second plan of operations, submitted March 18,^ but evi- 
dently long since matured. It apparently antedates Dear- 
born's apprehensions, and is not affected by them, though 
the two worked together to a common mistaken decision. 
The commodore's letter presents an interesting study, in 
its demonstration of how an erroneous first conception 
works out to false conclusions, and in the particular in- 
stance to ultimate military disaster. The capture of 
Kingston, his first plan, and its retention, which Arm- 
strong purposed, would have settled the whole campaign 
and affected decisively the issue of the war. Chauncey's 
new project is dominated throughout by the view, which 
was that of the Government, that the great object of the 
war was to control the northwestern territory by local 
operations, instead of striking at the source of British 
power in its communication with the sea. At this mo- 
ment, the end of March, the British naval force on Ontario 
was divided between York and Kingston; in each were 
vessels afloat and vessels building. An attack upon 
Kingston, Chauncey said, no doubt would be finally suc- 
cessful — an initial admission which gave away his case ; 
but as the opposing force would be considemble, it would 
protract the general operations of the campaign — the 
reduction of the northwest — longer than would be advis- . 
able, particularly as large re-enforcements would probably 

1 American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i. p. 442. 

2 Captains' Letters. 

VOL. II. — 3 

3 J: THE WAR OF 1812 

arrive at Quebec in the course of two months. On the 
other hand, to proceed against York, which probably 
could be carried immediately, would result in destroying 
at once a large fraction of the British fleet, greatly weak- 
ening the whole body. Thence the combined Americans 
would turn against Fort George and the Niagara line. If 
successful here, the abandonment of Fort Erie by the 
British would I'elease the American vessels which by its 
guns were confined at Black Rock. They would sail forth 
and join their consorts at Erie; which done, Chauncey, 
leaving his Ontario fleet to blockade Yeo at Kingston, 
would go to the upper lake and carry against the British 
the squadron thus concentrated there, would co-operate 
with the army under General Harrison, recover Detroit, 
and capture Maiden. Lake Erie and its surroundings 
would thus become an American holding. After this, it 
would be but a step to reconquer Michilimackinac, thereby 
acquiring an influence over the Indians which, in con- 
junction with military and naval preponderance, would 
compel the enemy to forsake the upper country altogether, 
and concentrate his forces about Kingston and Montreal. 

It is interesting to see an elaborate piece of serious 
reasoning gradually culminate in a reductio ad absurdum ; 
and Chauncey's reasoning ends in a military absurdity. 
The importance of Kingston is conceded by him, and the 
probability of capturing it at the first is admitted. There- 
upon follows a long project of operation, which ends in 
compelling the enemy to concentrate all his strength at 
the very points — Kingston and Montreal — which it is 
most important for the Americans to gain; away from 
which, therefore, they should seek to keep the enemy, 
and not to drive him in upon them. This comes from the 
bias of the Government, and of the particular officer, 
regarding the Northwestern territory as the means whereby 
success was to be accomplished instead of merely the end 


to be attained. To make the Western territory and con- 
trol of the Indians the objects of the campaign was a polit- 
ical and military motive perfectly allowable, and probably, 
in view of recent history, extremely necessary; but to 
make these things the objective of operations was to in- 
vert the order of proceedings, as one who, desiring to fell 
a tree, should procure a ladder and begin cutting off the 
outermost branches, instead of striking at the trunk by 
the ground. 

Eighteen months later Chauncey wrote some very wise 
words in this spirit. "It has always been my opinion 
that the best means to conquer Canada was to cut off sup- 
plies from Lower to Upper by taking and maintaining some 
position on the St. Lawrence. That would be killing the 
tree by girdling ; the branches, dependent on ordinary sup- 
plies, die of necessity. But it is now attempted to kill the 
tree by lopping off branches " [he is speaking of the Niagara 
campaign of 1814] ; " the body becomes invigorated by 
reducing the demands on its resources. "^ By this time 
Chauncey had been chastened by experience. He had 
seen his anticipated glory reaped on Lake Erie by his 
junior. He had seen the control of Ontario contested, 
and finally wrung from him, by vessels built at Kingston, 
the place which he had failed to take when he thought it 
possible. He had been blockaded during critical months 
by a superior squadron; and at the moment of writing, 
November 5, 1814, Sir James Yeo was moving, irresistible, 
back and forth over the waters of Ontario, with his flag 
flying in a ship of 102 guns, built at Kingston. In short, 
the Canadian tree was rooted in the ocean, where it was 
nourished by the sea power of Great Britain. To destroy 
it, failing the ocean navy which the United States had not, 
the trunk must be severed; the nearer the root the better. 

Demonstration of these truths was not long in coming, 

1 Captains' Letters, Nov. 5, 1814. 

36 THE WAR OF 1812 

and will be supplied by the narrative of events. When 
Chauncey penned the plan of operations just analyzed, 
there were in York two vessels, the " Prince Regent " 
of twenty guns, the "Duke of Gloucester," sixteen, and 
two — by his information — on the stocks. On April 14 
the ice in Sackett's Harbor broke up, though large floes 
still remained in the lake. On the 19th these also had 
disappeared. Eighteen hundred troops were embarked by 
the squadron, and on the 24th the expedition started, but 
was driven back by heavy weather. The next day it got 
away finally, and on the early morning of the 27th appeared 
off York. The troops were landed westward of the town, 
and proceeded to attack, supported by the shipping. The 
enemy, inferior in number, retired; the small regular 
force making its escape, with the exception of fifty who 
surrendered with the militia present. The American loss, 
army and navy, was a little over three hundred; among 
whom was General Pike, an excellent soldier, who com- 
manded the landing and was mortally wounded by the 
explosion of a magazine. The " Duke of Gloucester " 
schooner was taken, but the " Prince Regent " had gone 
to Kingston three days before; the weather which drove 
Chauncey back had enabled her to join her fleet as soon as 
released by the ice. By her escape the blow lost most of 
its effect; for York itself was indefensible, and was taken 
again without difficulty in the following July. A 30-gun 
vessel approaching completion was found on the stocks and 
burned, and a large quantity of military and naval stores 
were either destroyed or brought away by the victorious 
squadron. These losses were among the news that greeted 
Yeo's arrival; but, though severe, they were not irrepara- 
ble, as Chauncey for the moment imagined. He wrote: 
"I believe that the enemy has received a blow that he 
cannot recover, and if we succeed in our next enterprise, 
which I see no reason to doubt, we may consider the 


upper province as conquered." ^ The mistake here was 
soon to be evident. 

No time was wasted at York. The work of destruc- 
tion, and of loading what was to be carried away, was 
completed in three days, and on May 1 the troops were 
re-embarked, to sail for Fort George on the morrow. The 
wind, which for some days had been fair and moderate 
from the eastward, then came on to blow a gale which 
would make landing impossible off Niagara, and even 
navigation dangerous for the small vessels. This lasted 
through the 7th, Chauncey writing on that day that they 
were still riding with two anchoi-s ahead and lower yards 
down. So crowded were the ships that only half the sol- 
diers could be below at one time; hence they were ex- 
posed to the rain, and also to the fresh-water waves, which 
made a clean breach over the schooners. Under such cir- 
cumstances both troops and seamen sickened fast. On 
the 8th, the weather moderating, the squadron stood over 
to Fort Niagara, landed the troops for refreshment, and 
then returned to Sackett's ; it being thought that the op- 
portunity ' for surprise had been lost, and that no harm 
could come of a short further delay, during which also 
re-enforcements might be expected. 

Soon after his return Chauncey sent a flag of truce to 
Kingston. This made observations as to the condition of 
the enemy which began to dispel his fair illusions. ^ His 
purpose to go in person to Niagara was postponed; and 
despatching thither the squadron with troops, he remained 
at Sackett's to protect the yard and the ships building, in 
co-operation with the garrison. His solicitude was not 
misplaced. Niagara being a hundred and fifty miles from 
Sackett's, the fleet and army had been committed to a 
relatively distant operation, depending upon a main line 
of communication, — the lake, — on the flank and rear 

1 Captains' Letters, May 7. 1813. > Ibid., May 15. 

38 THE WAR OF 1812 

of which, and close to their own inadequately protected 
base, was a hostile arsenal, Kingston, harboring a naval 
force quite able to compete with their OAvn. The danger 
of such a situation is obvious to any military man, and 
even to a layman needs only to be indicated. Neverthe- 
less the enterprise was launched, and there was nothing 
for it now but to proceed on the. lines laid down. 

Chauncey accordingly sailed May 22, re-enforcements 
of troops for the defence of Sackett's having meantime 
arrived. He did not reach Niagara until the 25th. The 
next day was spent in reconnoissances, and other prepara- 
tions for a landing on the lake shore, a short mile west of 
Fort George. On the 27th, at 9 a.m., the attack began, 
covered by the squadron. General Vincent, in command 
of the British Niagara frontier, moved out to meet his 
enemy with the entire force near Fort George, leaving 
only a small garrison of one hundred and thirty men to 
hold the post itself. There was sharp fighting at the 
coast-line ; but Vincent's numbers were much inferior, and 
he was compelled steadily to give ground, until finally, 
seeing that the only alternatives were the destruction of 
his force or the abandonment of the position, he sent word 
to the garrison to spike the guns, destroy the ammunition, 
and to join his column as it withdrew. He retreated along 
the Niagara River toward Queenston, and thence west to 
Beaver Dam, about sixteen miles from Fort George. At 
the same time word was sent to the officers commanding at 
Fort Erie, and the intermediate post of Chippewa, to retire 
upon the same place, which had already been prepared in 
anticipation of such an emergency. The three divisions 
were thus in simultaneous movement, converging upon a 
common point of concentration, where they all assembled 
during the night; the whole, as reported by Vincent to 
his superior, now not exceeding sixteen hundred.^ The 

1 Canadian Archives. C. 678, p. 332. 


so 5 10 IS 20 


casualties during the day's fighting had been heavy, over 
four hundred killed and wounded; but in the retreat 
no prisoners were lost except the garrison of the fort, 
which was intercepted. Dearborn, as before at York, 
had not landed with his troops; prevented, doubtless, by 
the infirmities of age increasing upon him. Two days 
later he wrote to the Department, " I had presumed that 
the enemy would confide in the strength of his position 
and venture an action, by which an opportunity would be 
afforded to cut off his retreat. " ^ This guileless expecta- 
tion, that the net may be spread not in vain before the eyes 
of any bird, provoked beyond control such measure of 
equanimity as Armstrong possessed. Probably suspect- 
ing already that his correct design upon Kingston had been 
thwarted by false information, he retorted: "I cannot dis- 
guise from you the surprise occasioned by the tvjo escapes 
of a beaten enemy ; first on May 27, and again on June 1. 
Battles are not gained, when an inferior and broken enemy 
is not destroyed. Nothing is done, while anything that 
might have been done is omitted." ^ Vincent was unkind 
enough to disappoint his opponent. The morning after 
the engagement he retired toward a position at the head 
of the lake, known then as Burlington Heights, where the 
town of Hamilton now stands. Upon his tenure here the 
course of operations turned twice in the course of the next 
six months. 

While Vincent was in retreat upon Burlington, Captain 
Barclay arrived at his headquarters, on the way to take 
charge of the Lake Erie squadron ; ^ having had to coast 
the north shore of Ontario, on account of the American 
control of the water. The inopportuneness of the moment 
was prophetic of the numberless disappointments with 

1 American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i. p. 445. 

2 Ibid., p. 449. Armstrong's italics. 

3 Barclay's Narrative before the British Court Martial on the Battle of 
Lake Erie. British Kecords OflBce. 

40 THE WAR OF 1812 

which the naval officer would have to contend during the 
brief three months preceding his defeat by Perry. "The 
ordnance, ammunition, and other stores for the service on 
Lake Erie," wrote Prevost on July 20, with reference to 
Barclay's deficiencies, "had been deposited at York for 
the purpose of being transported to Amherstburg, but un- 
fortunately were either destroyed or fell into the enemy's 
hands when York was taken by them; and the subsequent 
interruption to the communication, by their occupation of 
Fort George, has rendered it extremely difficult to afford 
the supplies Captain Barclay requires, which, however, 
are in readiness to forward whenever circumstances will 
permit it to be done with safety." ^ The road from 
Queenston to Fort Erie, around Niagara Falls, was the 
most used and the best line of transportation, because the 
shortest. To be thrown off it to that from Burlington to 
Long Point was a serious mishap for a force requiring 
much of heavy and bulky supplies. To add to these more 
vital embarrassments, the principal ship, the " Queen Char- 
lotte," which had been lying at Fort Erie, had been or- 
dered by Vincent to leave there when the place was 
evacuated, and to go to Amhei-stburg, thus giving Barclay 
the prospect of a land journey of two hundred miles through 
the wilderness to his destination. Fortunately for him, 
a vessel turned up at Long Point, enabling him to reach 
Amherstburg about June 7. 

The second step in Chauncey's programme had now 
been successfully taken, and the vessels at Black Rock 
were free to move. With an energy and foresight which 
in administration seldom forsook him, he had prepared 
beforehand to seize even a fleeting opportunity to get them 
out. Immediately upon the fall of York, "to put nothing 
to hazard, I directed Mr. Eckford to take thirty carpenters 
to Black Rock, where he has gone to put the vessels lying 

1 Prevost to Bathurst, Canadian Archives. 


there in a perfect state of repair, ready to leave the river 
for Presqu' Isle the moment we are in possession of the 
opposite shore." Perry also was on hand, being actively 
engaged in the landing at Fort George; and the same 
evening, May 27, he left for Black Rock to hasten the 
departure. The process involved great physical labor, the 
several vessels having to be dragged by oxen against the cur- 
rent of the Niagara, here setting heavily toward the falls. 
It was not until June 12 that they were all above the 
rapids, and even this could not have been accomplished but 
for soldiers furnished by Dearborn. ^ The circumstance 
shows how hopeless the undertaking would have been if 
the enemy had remained in Fort Erie. Nor was this the 
only peril in their path. Barclay, with commendable 
promptitude, had taken the lake in superior force very 
shortly after his arrival at Amherstburg, and about 
June 15 appeared off Erie [Presqu' Isle]. Having re- 
connoitred the place, he cruised between it and Black 
Rock, to intercept the expected division; but the small 
vessels, coasting the beach, passed their adversary unseen 
in a fog, 2 and on June 18 reached the port. As Chauncey 
had reported on May 29 that the two brigs building there 
were launched, affairs on that lake began to wear a promis- 
ing aspect. The Lakes station as a whole, however, was 
still very short of men; and the commodore added that 
if none arrived before his approaching return to Sackett's, 
he would have to lay up the Ontario fleet to man that 
upon Erie. 

To do this would have been to abandon to the enemy 
the very important link in the communications, upon 
which chiefly depended the re-enforcement and supplies 
for both armies on the Niagara peninsula. The inherent 
viciousness of the plan upon which the American opera- 

1 Mackenzie's Life of Perry, vol. i. p. 148. 

2 Barclay's Narrative. 

42 THE WAR OF 1812 

tions were proceeding was now quickly evident. At the 
very moment of the attack upon Fort George, a threaten- 
ing but irresolute movement against Sackett's was under- 
taken by Prevost, with the co-operation of Yeo, by whom 
the attempt is described as a diversion, in consequence 
of the enemy's attack upon Fort George. Had the place 
fallen, Chauncey would have lost the ship then building, 
on which he was counting to control the water; he would 
have had nowhere to rest his foot except his own quarter- 
deck, and no means to repair his fleet or build the new 
vessels continually needed to maintain superiority. Tlie 
case of Yeo dispossessed of Kingston would have been 
similar, but worse ; for land transport in the United States 
was much better than in Canada. The issue of the war, 
as regarded the lakes and the Northwestern territory, lay 
in those two places. Upon them depended offensive and 
defensive action. 

At the time of the attack upon Sackett's only two ves- 
sels of the squadron were there, the senior officer of which, 
Lieutenant Chauncey, was in momentary command of 
the navy yard as well. The garrison consisted of four 
hundred regular troops, the coming of whom a week 
before had enabled Chauncey to leave for Niagara. Dear- 
born had already written to Major-General Jacob Brown, 
of the New York militia, asking him to take command of 
the station; for which his local knowledge particularly 
fitted him, as he was a resident of some years' standing. 
He had moreover manifested marked military capacity 
on the St. Lawrence line, which was under his charge. 
Brown, whose instincts were soldierly, was reluctant to 
supersede Colonel Backus, the officer of regulars in com- 
mand ; but a letter from the latter received on the 27th, 
asking him to take charge, determined his compliance. 
When he arrived five hundred militia had assembled. 

The British expedition left Kingston with a fine fair 


wind on the early morning of May 27 — the same day that 
the Americans were landing at Fort George. The whole 
fleet accompanied the movement, having embarked troops 
numbering over seven hundred; chiefly regulars. At noon 
they were off Sackett's Harbor. Prevost and Yeo stood 
in to reconnoitre ; but in the course of an hour the troops, 
who were already in the boats, ready to pull to the beach, 
were ordered to re -embark, and the squadron stood out 
into the lake. The only result so far was the capture of 
twelve out of nineteen American barges, on their way 
from Oswego to the Harbor. The other seven gained 
the port. 

During the next thirty-six hours militia kept coming in, 
and Brown took command. Sackett's Harbor is an in- 
dentation on the south side of a broad bay, called Black 
River Bay, into which the Black River empties. The 
harbor opens eastward; that is, its back is toward the 
lake, from which it is distant a little over a mile; and its 
north side is formed by a long narrow point, called Navy 
Point, on which was the naval establishment. Where 
Black River Bay meets the lake, its south shore is pro- 
longed to the west by a projection called Horse Island, 
connected with the land by a fordable neck. Brown ex- 
pected the landing to be made upon this, and he decided 
to meet the attack at the water's edge of the mainland, 
as the enemy crossed the neck. There he disposed his 
five hundred militia, placing the regulars under Backus 
in a second line ; a steadying point in case the first line 
of untrained men failed to stand firm. It was arranged 
that, if the enemy could not be resisted. Lieutenant 
Chauncey was to set fire to the naval stores and shipping, 
and cross with his crews to the south side of the harbor, 
east of a work called Fort Volunteer, where Brown pro- 
posed to make his final stand. From there, although an 
enemy at the yard could be molested, he could not cer- 

44 THE WAR OF 1812 

tainly be prevented from carrying off stores or ships; 
hence the necessity for destruction. 

The British landed upon Horse Island soon after day- 
light of May 29, and from there advanced. The militia 
met them with a volley, but then broke and fled, as had 
been foreseen by Brown, himself yet a militia officer. 
Their colonel behaved gallantly, and was killed in trying 
to rally his men ; while Brown in person, collecting a hun- 
dred of the fugitives, worked round with them to the left 
flank of the approaching British. These, moving through 
the woods, now encountered Backus and his regulars, who 
made upon them an impression of overwhelming numbers, 
to which the British official report bears a vivid testimony. 
The failure to carry the place is laid by this paper upon 
the light and adverse winds, which prevented the co- 
operation of the squadron's heavy guns, to reduce the 
batteries and blockhouse. Without this assistance, it 
was impracticable to carry by assault the works in which 
the Americans had taken refuge. The gunboats alone 
could get within range, and their small carronades were 
totally inadequate to make any impression on the forts and 
blockhouses. " The troops were reluctantly ordered to 
leave a beaten enemy." Brown makes no mention of this 
retreat into the works, though it appears clear that the 
Americans fell gradually back to their support; but he 
justifies Prevost's withdrawal, bitterly criticised by writers 
of his own nation, in the words, " Had not General Pre- 
vost retreated most rapidly under the guns of his vessels, 
he would never have returned to Kingston."^ 

In the midst of the action word was brought to Lieu- 
tenant Chauncey that the battle was lost, and that the 
yard must be fired. Brown, in his official report, expressly 

1 Brown's and Prevost's Reports of this affair may be found in Niles' 
Kegister, vol. iv. pp. 260, 261. That of Yeo is in the Canadian Archives j 
M. 389, 6, p. 22. 

g I 


acquitted him of blame, with words of personal commen- 
dation. The two schooners in commission had reti'eated 
up Black River; but the prize "Duke of Gloucester," 
and the ship approaching completion, were fired. Fortu- 
nately, the flames were extinguished before serious dam- 
age was done; but when Commodore Chauncey returned 
on June 1, he found that among a large quantity of 
materials consumed were the stores and sails of the new 
ship. The loss of these he thought would delay the 
movements of the squadron three weeks ; for without her 
Yeo's force was cow superior. ^ 

The defence of Sackett's Harbor obtained immediately 
for Brown, who was just thirty-eight, the commission of 
brigadier general in the army; for the new Secretarj^ 
Armstrong, was looking round anxiously for men to put 
in command, and was quick to seize upon one when he 
found him. To Chauncey, on the other hand, the affair 
in its consequences and demonstration of actualities was 
a rude awakening, to which his correspondence during 
the succeeding six weeks bears witness by an evident wan- 
ing of confidence, not before to be noted. On June 4 he 
tells the Secretary of the Navy that he has on Ontario, 
exclusive of the new ship not yet ready, fourteen vessels 
of every description, mounting sixty-two guns; whereas 
Yeo has seven, which, with six gunboats, carry one hun- 
dred and six. "If he leave Kingston, I shall meet him. 
The result may be doubtful, but worth the trial." This 
resolution is not maintained. June 11 he hears, with 
truth, that Yeo was seen at the head of the lake on the 
7th, and that the Americans at Fort George had taken his 
squadron to be Chauncey's. By the same channel he 
learns of a disastrous engagement of the army there, which 
was likewise true. His impulse is to go out to meet the 
British squadron ; but he reflects that the enemy may then 

1 Captains' Letters, June 11, 1813. 

46 THE WAR OF 1812 

again find an opportunity to descend upon Sackett's, and 
perhaps succeed in burning the new ship. Her size and 
armament will, he thinks, give him the decisive superior- 
ity. He therefore resolves to put nothing to hazard till 
she is finished. 1 

The impression produced by the late attack is obvious, 
and this decision was probably correct; but Yeo too is 
building, and meantime he has possession of the lake. 
On June 3 he left Kingston with a squadron, two ships 
and four schooners, carrying some three hundred troops for 
Vincent. On the evening of the 7th, about six o'clock, 
he was sighted by the American army, which was then 
at Forty Mile Creek on the Ontario shore; a position 
to which it had retired after a severe reverse inflicted by 
the enemy thirty-six hours before. Vincent's retreat 
had been followed as far as Stony Creek, ten miles 
west of Forty Mile Creek, and somewhat less distant 
from Burlington Heights, where the British lay. The 
situation of the latter was extremely perilous ; for, though 
strongly placed, they were greatly outnumbered. In case 
of being driven from their lines, they must retreat on 
York by a long and difficult road; and upon the same 
poor communications they were dependent for supplies, 
unless their squadron kept control of the lake. Recog- 
nizing that desperate conditions call for desperate remedies, 
Vincent resolved to risk an attack with seven hundred men 
under Colonel Harvey, in whose suggestion the movement 
originated. These fell upon the American advance corps 
at two o'clock in the morning of June 6. An hour of fight- 
ing ensued, with severe loss on both sides ; then Harvey, 
considering sufficient effect produced, drew off his men 
before daylight revealed the smallness of their numbers. 

There was in this affair nothing intrinsically decisive, 
scarcely more than a business of outposts ; but by a singular 

1 Captains' Letters. 


coincidence both American generals present were captured 
in the confusion. The officer who succeeded to the com- 
mand, a colonel of cavalry, modestly distrustful of his own 
powers, could think of nothing more proper than to return 
to Forty Mile Creek, sending word to Fort George. Dear- 
born, still too weak to go to the front, despatched thither 
General Morgan Lewis. On his way Lewis was overtaken 
by two brief messages from the commander-in-chief an- 
nouncing the appearance of Yeo's fleet, and indicating 
apprehension that by means of it Vincent might come 
upon Fort George before the main army could fall back 
there. It was most improbable that the British general, 
with the command of the lake in doubt would thus place 
himself again in the position from which he had with 
difficulty escaped ten days before; but Dearborn's fears for 
the safety of the forts prevailed, and he ordered a retreat. 
The movement began by noon of June 8, and in a few days 
the army was back at Niagara River, having lost or aban- 
doned a quantity of stores. The British followed to within 
ten miles of the fort, where they took up a position. They 
also reoccupied Beaver Dam ; and a force of six hundred 
Americans sent to dislodge them, under Colonel Boerstler, 
was compelled to surrender on June 24. ^ Dearborn, who 
had already reported to the Department that he personally 
was "so reduced in strength as to be incapable of any 
command," attributed his embarrassments "to the tempo- 
rary loss of command of the lake. The enemy has availed 
himself of the advantage and forwarded re-enforcements 
and supplies." The effect of controlling the water cannot 
be contested ; but the conditions at Stony Creek were such 
that it should have been possible to drive Vincent away 
from any hold on the south shore of Ontario. Creditable 

1 The account of these transactions is summarized from American State 
Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i. pp 445-449. For Vincent's report of tJie 
Stony Creek affair see Cruikshank's Documentary History of the Campaign 
on the Niagara Frontier, 1813, Part II, p. 8. 

48 THE WAR OF 1812 

as had been the enterprise of Colonel Harvey, it had ac- 
complished no change in material conditions. Dearborn 
was soon afterward relieved. His officers, including Scott, 
joined in a letter of regret and esteem, prompted doubt- 
less by sympathy for the sufferings and miscarriage of an 
aged officer who had served gallantly in his youth during 
the War of Independence. 

To Colonel Harvey's attack, on the morning of June 6, 
a British military critic has with justice assigned the turn- 
ing of the tide in the affairs of Upper Canada. ^ It is per- 
fectly true that that well-judged movement, admirable in 
conception and execution, checked the progress of the 
American arms at a moment most favorable to them, and 
put an end to conditions of advantage which never there 
recurred. That this effect was produced, however, is 
attributable to the inefficiency of the American officers in 
command. If Harvey had divined this, from the previous 
operations, and made it a part of his calculations, it is 
so much more to his credit; the competency of the oppo- 
nent is a chief factor to be considered in a military enter- 
prise. It detracts nothing from Harvey's merit to say 
that there was no occasion for the American retreat, nor 
for the subsequent paralj^sis of effort, which ended in ex- 
pulsion from the Niagara peninsula at the end of the year. 
"For some two months after this," wrote a very compe- 
tent eye-witness, afterward General Scott, "the army of 
Niagara, never less than four thousand strong, stood fixed 
in a state of ignominy, under Boyd, within five miles of 
an unintrenched enemy, with never more than three thou- 
sand five hundred men." ^ Scott seems not to have known 
that this inactivity was enjoined by the War Department 
till Chauncey could resume control of the lake.^ From 

^ Smyth's Precis of Wars in Canada, p. 137. 

^ Scott's Memoirs, vol. i. p. 94. 

* American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i. pp. 450, 451. 


this time, in fact, the Niagara army and its plans disap- 
pear from the active operations. 

Yeo remained in undisputed mastery of the water. 
That the British at this time felt themselves the stronger 
in effective force, may be reasonably inferred from their 
continuing to keep the lake after Chauncey's new ship 
was out. She was launched June 12, and named the 
*' General Pike," in honor of the officer killed at the tak- 
ing of York. Her armament was to be twenty-six long 
24-pounders, which under some circumstances would make 
her superior, not only to any single vessel, but to any 
combination of vessels then under the British flag. If it 
was still possible, by use of favoring conditions, to con- 
tend with the American fleet after the addition to it of 
this ship, by so much more was Yeo able to deal success- 
fully with it before her coming. A comparison of the 
armaments of the opposing forces also demonstrates that, 
whatever Chauncey's duty might have been without such 
prospect, he was justified, having this decisive advantage 
within reach, in keeping his fleet housed waiting for its 
realization. The British new vessel, the "Wolfe," with 
the "Royal George "i and the "Melville," together threw 
a broadside weight of nine hundred and twenty pounds, ^ 
to which the " ^ladison " and " Oneida " could oppose only 
six hundred ,• and the batteries of all five being mainly car- 
ronades, there are no qualifications to be made on the score 
of differing ranges. The American schooners, though 
much more numerous than the British, in no way compen- 
sated for this disparity, for reasons which will be given 
when the narrative of operations begins. Unknown to 
Chauncey, the vindication of his delay was to be found in 
Yeo's writing to the Admiralty, that he was trying to 

1 Formerly the " Prince Regent." 

2 Yeo's Report of the Vessels on the Lakes, July 15, 1813. British 
Records Office. 

VOL. II. — 4 

50 • THE WAR OF 1812 

induce the enemy to come out before his new ship was 

Disappointed in this endeavor, the British commodore 
meantime employed his vessels in maintaining the com- 
munications of the British and harassing those of the 
Americans, thus observing the true relation of the lake to 
the hostilities. Mention has been made of the effect upon 
Dearborn; morally, in the apprehension created, actually, 
in the strength contributed to Vincent's army. "IPhe 
enemy's fleet is constantly hovering on the coast and in- 
terrupting our supplies," wrote General Lewis, during 
Dearborn's incapacity. Besides incidental mentions by 
American officers, Yeo himself reports the capture of two 
schooners and boats loaded with stores June 13; and 
between that date and the 19th he landed parties at the 
Genesee River and Great Sodus, capturing or destroying 
a quantity of provisions. Transit between Oswego and 
Sackett's was also in constant danger of an unexpected 
interference by the British squadron. On June 20 it ap- 
peared off Oswego, with apparent disposition to attack; but 
Yeo, who in his exercise of chief command displayed a de- 
gree of caution remarkable in view of his deservedly high 
reputation for dash acquired in less responsible positions, 
did not pass beyond threat. All the same, the mere un- 
certainty exercised a powerful influence on the mainte- 
nance of intercourse. " If the schooners ' Lark ' and ' Fly ' 
are not now in Sackett's," wrote Lieutenant Woolsey 
from Oswego, " they must have been taken yesterday by 
the British boats. They were loaded with powder, shot, 
and hospital stores for the army." He has also cord- 
age, powder, guns, cables, to send, and boats in which to 
ship them ; but " under existing circumstances I dare not 
take upon myself to send them farther than to Sandy 
Creek, under strong guard. I think it would be unsafe 
to venture round Stony Point [a projecting headland 


twelve miles from Sackett's] without convoy or a good 
guard. " 1 

On July 2, haA'ing ranged the lake at will since June 1, 
Yeo returned to Kingston, and Chauncey again began to 
hear rumors. "The fleet has taken on board two thou- 
sand men, and two thousand more are to embark in boats ; 
an attack upon this place is the object. The plan is to 
make a desperate push at our fleet before the ' General 
Pike ' can be got ready. . . . His real object may be to 
land re-enforcements near Fort George, to act with Gen- 
eral Vincent against Dearborn. If this be his object, he 
will succeed in obliging our army to recross the Niagara 
River; "2 a damaging commentary on the American plan 
of campaign. This fear, however, was excessive, for the 
reason that an effective American army on the Niagara 
had a land line of communication, bad but possible, alter- 
native to the lake. The British had not. Moreover, the 
Niagara peninsula had for them a value, as a land link 
between Ontario and Erie, to which nothing corresponded 
on the United States side. Had Vincent been driven 
from Burlington Heights, not only would he have lost 
touch with the lake, and been forced back on York, but 
Ontario would for the British have been entirely cut off 
from Erie. 

The " General Pike " was ready for service on July 20, 
and the following evening Chauncey sailed. With this 
begins a period, extending over ten or twelve weeks, 
which has no parallel in the naval lake history of the war. 
It was unproductive of decisive results, and especially of 
the one particular result which is the object of all , naval 
action — the destruction of the enemy's organized force, 
and the establishment of one's own control of the water; 
nevertheless, the ensuing movements of Yeo and Chauncey 

1 Woolsey to Chauncey, June 20 and 21, 1813. Captains' Letters. 

2 Chauncey to the Department, July 5, 1813. Captains' Letters. 

52 THE WAR OF 1812 

constituted a naval campaign of considerable interest. 
Nothing resembling it occurred on either Lake Champlain 
or Erie, and no similar condition recurred on Ontario. 
The fleets were frequently in presence of each other, and 
three times came to blows. On Erie and on Champlain 
the opposing forces met but once, and then without any 
prolonged previous attempts at manoeuvring. They fought 
immediately; the result in each case being an American 
victory, not only complete but decisive, which has kept 
their remembrance alive to this day in the national mem- 
ory. On Ontario, after the close of the season of 1813, 
the struggle resolved itself into a race of ship-building; 
both parties endeavoring to maintain superiority by the 
creation of ever-increasing numbers, instead of by crush- 
ing the enemy. Such a contest sufficiently befits a period 
of peace ; it is, for instance, at this moment the condition 
of the great naval nations of the world, each of which is 
endeavoring to maintain its place in the naval scale by 
the constant production and development of material. In 
war, however, the object is to put an end to a period of 
national tension and expense by destroying the enemy; 
and the failure of the commanders to effect, this object 
calls for examination. 

The indecisive result on Ontario was due to the par- 
ticular composition of the two squadrons ; to the absence 
of strong compelling conditions, such as made fighting 
imperative on Barclay upon Erie, and perhaps also on 
Downie upon Champlain; and finally, to the extreme 
wariness of the commanders, each of whom was deeply 
impressed with the importance of preserving his own fleet, 
in order not to sacrifice control of the lake. Chauncey has 
depicted for us his frame of mind in instructions issued at 
this very moment — July 14 — to his subordinate, Perry. 
" The first object will be to destroy or cripple the enemy's 
fleet; but in all attempts upon the fleet you ought to use 


great caution, for the loss of a single vessel may decide 
the fate of the campaign." ^ A practical commentary of 
singular irony was passed upon this utterance within two 
months ; for by sacrificing a single ship Perry decided his 
own campaign in his own favor. Given the spirit of 
Chauncey's warning, and also two opponents with fleets 
so different in constitution that one is strong where the 
other is weak, and vice versa, and there is found the ele- 
ments of wary and protracted fighting, with a strong 
chance that neither will be badly hurt; but also that 
neither will accomplish much. This is what happened 
on Ontario. 

The relative powers of the two fleets need to be briefly 
explained; for they constituted, so to say, the hands in 
the game which each commander had to play. The British 
had six vessels, of varying sizes and rigs, but all built for 
war, and sailing fairly well together. They formed there- 
fore a good manoeuvring squadron. The Americans had 
three vessels built for war, and at the beginning ten 
schooners also, not so designed, and not sailing well with 
the armaments they bore. Whatever the merits of this 
or that vessel, the squadron as a whole manoeuvred badly, 
and its movements were impeded by the poorer sailors. 
The contrast in armaments likewise had a very decisive 
effect. There were in those days two principal classes 
of naval cannon, — long guns, often called simply "guns," 
and carronades. The guns had long range with light 
weight of shot fired ; the carronades had short range and 
heavy shot. Now in long guns the Americans were four 
times as strong as the British, while in carronades the 
British were twice as strong as the Americans. It follows 
that the American commodore should prefer long range 
to begin with ; whereas the British would be careful not 
to approach within long range, unless with such a breeze 

1 Captains' Letters. Navy Department MSS. 

54 THE WAR OF 1813 

as would carry him rapidly down to where his carronades 
would come into play. 

There was another controlling reason why short range 
favored the British against the Americans. The schooners 
of the latter, not being built for war, carried their guns on 
a deck unprotected by bulwarks. The men, being ex- 
posed from the feet up, could be swept away by canister, 
which is a quantity of small iron balls packed in a case 
and fired from a cannon. When discharged, these sepa- 
rate and spread like buckshot, striking many in a group. 
They can maim or kill a man, but their range is short and 
penetrative power small. A bulwarked vessel was, so to 
say, armored against canister; for it makes no difference 
whether the protection is six inches of wood or ten of 
iron, provided it keeps out the projectile. The American 
schooners were in this respect wholly vulnerable. 

Over-insistence upon details of advantage or disadvan- 
tage is often wearisome, and may be pushed to pettifog- 
ging ; but these quoted are general and fundamental. To 
mention them is not to chaffer over details, but to state 
principles. There is one other which should be noted, 
although its value may be differently estimated. Of the 
great long-gun superiority of the Americans more than 
one half was in the unprotected schooners; distributed, 
that is, among several vessels not built for war, and 
not capable of acting well together, so as to concentrate 
their fire. There is no equality between ten guns in 
five such vessels and the same ten concentrated on one 
deck, under one captain. That this is not special 
pleading, to contravene the assertion advanced by James 
of great American superiority on Ontario, I may quote 
words of my own, written years ago with reference to 
a British officer: "An attempt was made to disparage 
Howe's conduct (in 1778), and to prove that his force 
was even superior to that of the French, by adding to- 


gether the guns in all his ships, disregarding their 
classes, or by combining groups of his small vessels against 
D'Estaing's larger units. For this kind of professional 
arithmetic Howe felt and expressed just and utter con- 
tempt." 1 So Nelson wrote to the commander of a British 
cruising squadron, "Your intentions of attacking the 
' Aigle ' " — a seventy-four — " with your three frigates 
are certainly very laudable, but I do not consider your 
force by any means equal to it.'* The new American 
ship, the "General Pike," possessed this advantage of 
the seventy-four. One discharge of her broadside was 
substantially equal to that of the ten schooners, and all 
her guns were long ; entirely out-ranging the batteries of 
her antagonists. Under some circumstances — a good 
breeze and the windward position — she was doubtless 
able to encounter and beat the whole British squadron 
on Ontario. But the American schooners were mere 
gunboats, called to act in conditions unfavorable to that 
class of vessel, the record of which for efficiency is under 
no circumstances satisfactory. 

Aft€r leaving Sackett's, Chauncey showed himself off 
Kingston and then went up the lake, arriving off Niagara 
on the evening of July 27. An abortive attempt, in con- 
junction with the array, was made upon a position of the 
enemy at Burlington Heights, then far in rear of his 
main line ; but it being found too strong, the fleet, with 
the troops still on board, bore over to York and there 
retaliated the injury done by Yeo at Genesee and Sodus. 
There was no opposition ; many stores were destroyed or 
brought away, some military buildings burned, and the 
vessels then returned to Niagara. They were lying there 
at daybreak of August 7 when the British appeared : two 
ships, two brigs, and two large schooners. Chauncey had 
substantially his^whole force: two ships, the "Pike" and 

1 " History of the Koyal Navy," edited by Sir W. L. Clowes, toI. iii. p. 411. 

66 THE WAR OF 1812 

" Madison," the brig " Oneida," and ten schooners. He 
got under way shortly and put out into the lake. Various 
manoeuvres followed, his principal object being to get to 
windward of the enemy ; or, when the wind failed, to 
sweep ^ the schooners close enough for their long guns 
to reach ; the only useful function they possessed. These 
efforts were unsuccessful, and night shut in with the two 
opponents sailing in parallel lines, heading north, with the 
wind at west ; the Americans to leeward and in rear of the 
British. At two in the morning, in a heavy squall, two 
schooners upset, with the loss of all on board save sixteen- 
souls. Chauncey reckoned these to be among his best, 
and, as they together mounted nineteen guns, he con- 
sidered that " this accident gave the enemy decidedly the 
superiority " ; another instance of faulty professional arith- 
metic, omitting from the account the concentration of 
power in the " General Pike." 

Yeo did not estimate conditions in the same way, and 
persisted warily in keeping the weather gage, watching for 
a chance to cut off schooners, or for other favoring oppor- 
tunity ; while Chauncey as diligently sought to gain the 
advantage of the wind, to force action with his heavy 
ships. MancBuvring continued all day of the 8th, 9th, and 
10th. The winds, being light and shifting, favored now 
one, now the other; but in no case 'for long enough to 
insure a meeting which the American with good reason 
desired, and his antagonist with equal propriety would 
accept only under conditions that suited him. At nine in 
the evening of August 10 the American squadron was 
standing northwest, with the wind at southwest, when the 
British, which was then following to windward, wore and 
stood south. Chauncey made no change in direction, but 
kept his vessels in two lines ; this being the oixler of battle 
by which, not being able to attack hin^elf, he hoped to 

1 That is, — row 


induce Yeo to engage incautiously. The six smallest 
schooners, of the eight now left to him, were put in the 
weather line ; therefore toward the enemy, if he persisted 
in keeping to windward. The lee line, abreast of the other, 
and six hundred yards from it, was composed of the 
" Pike," " Madison," and " Oneida," astern of which were 
the two hea\'iest schooners. The smaller vessels were 
displayed as a tempting bait, disposed, as it were, in such 
manner that the opponent might hope to lay hands on one 
or more, without coming too much under the " Pike 's " 
heavy guns ; for her two larger consorts, carrpng carron- 
ades chiefly, might be neglected at the distance named. 
If such an attempt were made, the schooners' orders were 
to edge imperceptibly to leeward, enticing the enemy to 
follow in his eagerness ; and when he was near enough they 
were to slip cleverly through the intervals in the lee line, 
leaving it to finish the business. The lure was perhaps a 
little too obvious, the enemy's innocent forgetfulness of 
the dangere to leeward too easily presumed ; for a ship 
does not get out of the hold of a clear-headed captain as a 
mob of troops in hot pursuit may at times escape the con- 
trol of their officers. In view, however, of Yeo's evident 
determination to keep his "fleet in being," by avoiding 
action except on his own terms, nothing better was open to 
Chauncey, unless fortune should favor him. 

At half-past ten the British again wore, now standino- 
northwest after the American squadron, the rear vessels of 
which opened fire at eleven (A). At quarter-past eleven 
the cannonade became general between the enemy and the 
weather line (B). Fifteen minutes later, the foiu* rear 
schooners of the latter, which were overmatched when once 
within carronade range, bore up and ran to leewaixl ; two 
taking position on the other side of the main division, and 
two astern of it. (c, c). So far all went according to plan ; 
but unhappily the leading two American schooners, in- 

58 'i^HE WAR OF 1812 

stead of keeping away in obedience to orders, tacked — 
went about towards the enemy — keeping to windward (d). 
Chauncey, seeing the risk involved for them, but pre- 
possessed with the idea of luring Yeo down by the appear- 
ance of flight set by the schooners, made what can scarcely 
be considered other than the mistake of keeping away him- 
self, with the heavy ships; "filled the maintopsail, and 
edged away two points, to lead the enemy down, not only 
to engage him to more advantage, but to lead him away 
from the ' Growler' and ' Julia' " (C). Yeo, equally domi- 
nated by a preconceived purpose not to bring his ships under 
the guns of the " Pike," acted much as a squirrel would do 
with two nuts in sight ; he went for the one safely distant 
from suspected danger. " He kept his wind," reported 
Chauncey, "until he had completely separated those two 
vessels from the rest of the squadron, exchanged a few shot 
with the ' Pike,' as he passed, without injury to us, and made 
sail after the two schooners " (e). Some time after mid- 
night these surrendered to odds plainly irresistible.^ 

The tacking of the two schooners was an act as ill-judged 
as it was insubordinate, for which Chauncey was in no wise 
responsible. His bearing up was certainly an error, which 
unfortunately lent itself to the statement, contemporane- 
ously made by an American paper, that he retreated, leav- 
ing the two vessels to their fate. It was possible, therefore, 
for Sir James to word the transaction as he airily did : "At 
eleven we came within gunshot of their line of schooners, 
which opened a heavy fire, their ships keeping off the wind 
to prevent our closing. At half-past twelve this ship came 
within gunshot of the ' Pike ' and ' Madison, ' when they 
immediately bore up, fired their stern chase-guns, and made 
sail for Niagara, leaving two of their schooners astern, 
which we captured. "^ This gives a more victorious and 

1 Chauncey's Report of this cruise is in Captains' Letters, Aug. 13, 1813. 
Also, in Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 421. 

2 James, Naval Occurrences. Appendix, p. Ixxiv. * 


O American 

1S> British 

A,B,C, Synchronous positions 




clashing air to the success than it quite deserves. As it 
stood, it was real enough, though trivial. To take two ves- 
sels from a superior fleet, within range of its commander-in- 
chief, is a handsome business, which should not need to be 
embellished by the implication that a greatly desired fight 
could not be had. To quote Marryat, " It is very hard to 
come at the real truth of this sort of thing, as I found 
out during the time that I was in his Majesty's service." 
Chauncey's version is perfectly probable. Seeing that the 
enemy would not follow, " tacked and stood after him. At 
twelve (midnight), finding that I must either separate from 
the rest of the squadron, or relinquish the hope of saving 
the two which had separated, I reluctantly gave up the pur- 
suit." His reading of Yeo's conduct is plausible. " From 
what I have been able to discover of the movements of the 
enemy, he has no intention of engaging us, except he can get 
decidedly the advantage of wind and weather ; and as his 
vessels in squadron sail better than our squadron, he can 
always avoid an action. . . . He thinks to cut o£E our small 
dull sailing schooners in detail." Here and always Chaun- 
cey's conduct reflects the caution prescribed in his instruc- 
tions to Perr)^, rather than the resolute determination the 
latter showed to bring matters to an issue. On the other 
hand, it is to be remembered that, owing to the nearly 
equal facilities for ship-building — for replacing ships lost 
— possessed by Kingston and Sackett's, a decisive naval 
victory would not have the finality of result to be expected 
on Lake Erie. Contrary to the usual conditions of naval 
war, the two ports, not the fleets dependent on them, were 
the decisive elements of the Ontario campaign; and the 
ignoring of that truth was the fundamental, irremediable, 
American error. 

Chauncey returned to Sackett's on August 13, pro- 
visioned the squadron for five weeks, and sailed the same 
evening. On the 16th he was back off Niagara, and 

60 THE WAR OF 1812 

there again sighted the enemy ; but a heavy westerly 
gale drove both squadrons to the lower end of the lake, 
where each entered its own harbor on the 19th. August 
29 the American put out again, having an additional 
newly built schooner, named the " Sylph," large and fast, 
carrying three or four long 32-pounders. Chauncey re- 
ported that he had now nine vessels with ninety-one guns, 
but that the enemy was still superior. In number of guns, 
possibly; but it is difficult to accept the statement other- 
wise, except in the one very important particular of 
squadron manoeuvring power. This enabled Yeo to avoid 
action, except when it suited him to fight; or unless 
Chauncey was willing to engage first with part only of 
his squadron, following it with the rest. Such advantage 
in manoeuvring greatly increases the ability of the inferior 
to serve his own cause, but it does not constitute superi- 
ority. The delusion of measuring force by guns, irre- 
spective of the ships that carry them, has been explained. 

Yeo's intermediate movements do not appear, but on 
September 7 the antagonists again met off the Niagara 
River. From that day till the 12th the American fleet en- 
deavored to force a general action, which the other stead- 
ily, and properly, refused. The persistent efforts of the 
one to close, and of the other to avoid, led to a move- 
ment round the lake, ending by the British entering Am- 
herst Bay, five miles west of Kingston. On one occasion, 
off the Genesee on September 11, a westerly breeze 
carried the United States squadron within three-quarters 
of a mile of the enemy, before the latter felt it. A can- 
nonade and pursuit of some hours followed, but without 
decisive result. There seems traceable throughout Chaun- 
cey's account a distinct indisposition to what is called tech- 
nically " a general chase ;" to press on with part of the 
squadron, trusting to the slower vessels coming up soon 
enough to complete the work of the faster. He was unwill- 


ing thus to let his fleet loose. " This ship" (the "General 
Pike"), "the 'Madison,' and the 'Sylph,' have each a 
schooner constantly in tow, yet the others cannot sail as 
fast as the enemy's squadron, which gives him decidedly 
the advantage, and puts it in his power to engage me when 
and how he chooses." In such a situation success can 
be had only by throwing the more rapid upon the enemy 
as an advance guard, engaging as they get within range, 
relying upon their effecting such detention that the others 
can arrive in time to their support. To this recourse, 
though in halting fashion, Chauncey finally came on what 
proved to be his last collision with Yeo, September 28. 



WHILE the movements last related in the pre- 
ceding chapter were in progress, the contest 
for Lake Erie was brought to a final decision. 
After the successful transfer of the vessels 
from Black Rock to Erie, June 18, Perry remained upon 
the upper lake superintending all administrative work ; but 
in particular pressing the equipment of the two brigs or- 
dered by Chauncey the previous winter. To one of these, 
on which Perry intended to embark his own fortunes, was 
given the name of " Lawrence," the captain of the " Chesa- 
peake," whose death, heroic in defeat, occurred at this 
period. The other was called the " Niagara." They were 
sister vessels, of five hundred tons, constructed for war, 
and brig-rigged; that is, with two masts, and carrying 
square sails on both. Their armaments also were alike ; 
eighteen 32-pounder carronades, and two long 12-pounder 
guns. They were thus about equivalent in fighting force 
to the ocean sloops-of-war, " Wasp " and " Hornet," which, 
however, were three-masted. The remainder of the force 
would now be called a scratch lot. Three were schooner- 
rigged gunboats, built for the navy at Erie ; the remainder 
were the vessels brought from Black Rock. Of these, one 
was the brig " Caledonia," formerly British, captured by 
Elliott the previous autumn; the others were purchased 
lake craft. When finally taking the lake, August 6, the 
squadron consisted of the two brigs, of the Black Rock 


division, — "Caledonia," "Somers," "Tigress," "Oliio," and 
" Trippe," — and of three other schooners, — "Ariel," " Scor- 
pion," and " Porcupine," — apparently those built at Erie ; 
ten sail, all of which, except the " Ohio," were in the final 
decisive battle. 

On July 23 the vessels were rigged, armed, and ready 
for service, but there were not men enough to man them. 
How httle exacting Perry was in this matter, and how 
eager to enter upon active operations, is shown by a letter 
from his superior, Chauncey, to the Secretary of the Navy, 
dated July 8 : " I am at a loss," he says, " to account for 
the change in Captain Perry's sentiments with respect to 
the number of men required for the little fleet at Presqu' 
Isle ; for when I parted with him on the last of May, we 
coincided in opinion perfectly as to the number required 
for each vessel, which was one hundred and eighty for 
each of the new brigs, sixty for the ' Caledonia,' and forty 
for each of the other vessels, making in all seven hun- 
dred and forty officers and men. But if Captain Perry 
can beat the enemy with half that number, no one will 
feel more happy than myself." ^ Chauncey having su- 
preme control over both lakes, all re-enforcements from 
the seaboard were sent to him; and as he had his own 
particular enemy on Ontario to confront, it was evident, 
and natural, that Perry would be least well served. Hence, 
after successive disappointments, and being of more ven- 
turous temper than his superior, it is not surprising that 
he soon was willing to undertake his task with fewer men 
than his unbiased judgment would call necessary. 

The clash of interests between the two squadrons, having 
a common superior but separate responsibilities, is seen by 
a comparison of dates, which shows operations nearly simul- 
taneous. On July 23 the Erie squadron was reported " all 
ready to meet the enemy the moment they are officered and 

1 Captains' Letters, Navy Department MSS. 

64 THE WAR OF 1812 

manned ; " on July 20 the " General Pike " was ready, and 
on the 21st the Ontario squadron sailed from Sackett's 
Harbor. On August 5 Perry had his vessels across the 
bar at Erie, and next day stood out into the lake. On 
the 7th Chauncey and Yeo met for their first encounter. 
On the 8th the two Ontario schooners, " Hamilton " and 
" Scourge," were lost with nearly all on board ; and on the 
10th the "Julia" and "Growler" were captured. After 
this, it may be imagined that Chauncey with difficulty 
parted with men; and in the midst of his second colli- 
sion with Yeo the battle of Lake Erie occurred. In it, 
of the one hundred and eighty men deemed necessary by 
Chauncey, Perry's brig had one hundred and forty-two, 
of whom thirty were sick ; while the squadron, with nearly 
all its vessels present, instead of the intended seven hun- 
dred and forty, had but four hundred and ninety. Of this 
total, nearly one hundred were received from the army on 
August 31, only nine days before the action. For the most 
part these were strangers to shipboard. Barring them, 
PeiTy's fighting force was barely more than half that re- 
quired by Chauncey 's estimate. 

Indirectly, and notwithstanding Perry's disposition to 
make the best of his difficulty, this condition came near 
causing his withdrawal from the lake service ; a loss 
which, had it occurred, might have reversed the issues, for 
in few general actions has the personality of the commander 
counted for so much, after the battle joined. In a letter of 
July 26 to Chauncey, he had written : " The men that came 
by Mr. Champlin are a motley set, blacks, soldiers, and 
boys. I cannot think you saw them after they were 
selected." ^ Chauncey replied, somewhat testily, " I regret 
you are not pleased with the men sent you; for, to my 
knowledge, a part of them are not surpassed by any sea- 
men we have in the fleet ; and I have yet to learn that the 

1 Mackenzie's Life of Perry, vol. i. p. 166. 


color of the skin, or the cut aud trimmings of the coat, can 
affect a man's qualifications or usefulness." To this he 
added a warning not much short of a reproof : " As you 
have assured the secretary that you should conceive your- 
self equal or superior to the enemy, with a force in men so 
much less than I had deemed necessary, there will be 
a great ^deal expected from you by your country, and I 
trust they \nM not be disappointed in the high expec- 
tations formed of your gallantly and judgment. I will 
barely make an observation, which was impressed upon 
my mind by an old soldier; that is, 'Never despise your 
enemy.' " ^ 

This advice was sound, rightly weighed. Yet it is not 
too much to say that the confidence which carried Perry 
on to decisive victory has in it inevitably something of 
that assurance of success which is akin to contempt of 
the enemy, and that it was the precise quality in which 
Chauncey, throughout his own career on the lakes, showed 
himself deficient, and consequently failed. His plan at 
that moment, as he himself said in a letter to Perry of 
July 14, was "to seek a meeting with Sir James Yeo as 
soon as possible, in order to decide the fate of this lake, 
and join you immediately after." This was an intelligent 
project : to beat one enemy first, and then carry his force 
over to beat the other ; but never, when in presence of 
his antagonist, could he despise him sufficiently to cut his 
gunboats adrift, and throw one or two vessels into the 
midst of the fire, as Perry rushed his own ship in, had her 
cut to pieces, — and won. It is even worse to respect your 
enemy too greatly than to despise him. Said Farragut, 
speaking of an officer he highly valued: "Drayton does not 
know fear, but he believes in actincr as if the enemv never 
can be caught unprepared; whereas I believe in judging 
him by ourselves, and my motto in action is, ' L'audace, et 
1 Mackenzie's Life of Perry, toI. i. p. 186. 

VOL. II. — 5 

66 THE WAR OF 1812 

encore de Vaudace^ et toujours de Vaudace!^" This de- 
scribed Perry in battle. 

Although Chauncey closed with expressions of confidence 
which might be considered conciliatory, Perry experienced 
an annoyance which was natural, though excessive. He 
was only twenty-eight, quick of temper, though amiable, 
and somewhat prone to see more offence than was intended. 
When the letter reached him, the squadron had just crossed 
the bar ; the most critical movement of the campaign, had 
the enemy been duly watchful. Having accomplished this, 
he had before him only the common vicissitudes of naval 
"warfare. Nevertheless, under his first impulse of resent- 
ment, he applied to be removed from the station,^ giving as 
his reason, not the quality of men sent, concerning which 
indeed he had said, " I am pleased to see anything in the 
shape of a man," but that " I cannot serve under an officer 
who has been so totally regardless of my feelings." He 
then summarized the difficulties with which he had con- 
tended, and added, " The critical state of General Harrison 
was such that I took upon myself the responsibility of 
going out with the few young officers you had been pleased 
to send me," (Elliott, the second in command, did not ar- 
rive till the squadron was over the bar), " with the few 
seamen I had, and as many volunteers as I could muster 
from the militia. I did not shrink from this responsibility ; 
but, Sir, at that very moment I surelj'' did not anticipate 
the receipt of a letter in everj^ line of which is an insult." 
He then renewed his request. " I am willing to forego 
that reward which I have considered for two months past 
almost within my grasp." Fortunately for the renown 
of the service, from which one of its finest actions might 
have been lost, it was impossible to grant his application 
until after the battle had made the question of the com- 

1 Perry to the Secretary of the Navy, Aug. 10, 1813. Mackeuzie's Life of 
Perry, vol. i. p. 191. 

FYom the painting by Gilbert Stuart in the pos*e*tum of O. H. Perry, Esq. 


mand on Lake Erie one of very minor importance. The 
secretary replied to him with words in which rebuke and 
appreciation were aptly blended. "A change of com- 
mander, under existing circumstances, is equally inadmis- 
sible as it respects the interest of the service and your 
own reputation. It is right that you should reap the har- 
vest which you have sown." ^ 

After the Frenchtown disaster ^ of January 22, 1813, the 
Army of the Xorthwest under General Harrison had re- 
mained strictly on the defensive throughout the spring and 
summer. The tenure of its position on the Maumee River 
depended upon Fort Meigs, built during the winter just 
above the Rapids, some twenty miles from the lake. 
Thirty miles east of Meigs was Fort Stephenson at the 
mouth of the Sandusky River, protecting the approaches 
to Sandusky Bay, near which were Harrison's headquarters 
at the time Perry's squadron was ready to move. Fort 
Stephenson by its situation contributed also to secure the 
communications of the Maumee line with Central Ohio, 
and was an obstacle to an enemy's approach by land to 
Erie, a hundred and fifty miles further east. It was not, 
however, a work permanent in character, like Meigs ; and 
neither post could be considered secure, because inade- 
quately garrisoned. Fortunately, the general tenor of the 
instructions received by Procter from Prevost conspired 
with his own natural character to indispose him to ener- 
getic measures. His force of regulars was small ; and he had 
not the faculty, which occasional white men have shown, to 
arouse vigorous and sustained activity in the Indians, of 
whom he had an abundance at call. The use of them in 
desultory guerilla warfare, which was prescribed to him by 
Prevost, became in his hands ineffective. Nevertheless, 
from the number known to be under his command, and 

1 Secretary's Letters, Ang. 18, 1813. Navv Department MSS. 

2 Otherwise known by the name of the River Raisin. Ante, voL i. p. 370. 

68 THE WAR OF 1812 

the control of the water enabling him to land where he 
would, the threat of savage warfare hung over the frontier 
like a pall, until finally dissipated by Perry's victory. 

The danger to British control of the water, and thereby 
to the maintenance of their position in the northwest, if 
the American fleet now building should succeed in getting 
upon the lake, was perfectly apparent, and made Erie a 
third and principal point of interest. At the time of Perry's 
arrival, March 27, the place was entirely defenceless, and 
without any organization for defence, although the keels of 
the two brigs were laid, and the three gunboats well advanced 
in construction. By a visit to Pittsburgh he obtained from 
an army ordnance officer four small guns, with some muskets; 
and upon his application the local commander of Pennsylvania 
militia stationed at Erie five hundred men, who remained till 
the vessels crossed the bar. Under this slender protection 
went on the arduous work of building and equipping a squad- 
ron in what was substantially a wilderness, to which most of 
the mechanics and material had to be brought half a thou- 
sand miles from the seaboard, under the difficulties of trans- 
port in those days. The rapid advance in the preparations 
aroused the disquietude of the British, but Procter had not 
the enterprising temper to throw all upon the hazard, for 
the sake of destroying an armament which, if completed, 
might destro}^ him; while the British inferiority of force on 
Lake Ontario and the Niagara peninsula, together with the 
movement of Chauncey and Dearborn resulting in the cap- 
ture of York, April 27, effectually prevented intervention 
from that quarter in the affairs of Lake Erie. At this time 
Procter made his first effort of the season, directed against 
Fort Meigs, which he held besieged for over a week, — from 
May 1 to May 9. Although unable to capture it, the mis- 
management of an American relief force enabled him to 
inflict a veiy severe loss ; a corps of eight hundred and sixty- 
six men being cut to pieces or captured, only one hundred 


and seventy escaping. The chief points of interest in 
this business are the demonstration of the weakness of the 
American frontier, — the principal defence of which was 
thus not merely braved but threatened, — and the effect of 
control of the water. By it Procter brought over gun- 
boats which ascended the river, and guns of a weight not to 
be transported by land. The lake also secured his com- 

After the failure before Meigs, Procter turned his atten- 
tion more seriously to the situation at Erie, and demanded 
re-enforcements to enable him to attack the place .^ Pre- 
vost, being commander-in-chief for all Canada, recognized 
the expediency of the move, and ^Tote him, June 20, 
that he had directed General De Rottenburg at Niagara, to 
push on re-enforcements and supplies ; but Prevost was in 
Kingston, and De Rottenburg, immediately responsible for 
Niagara, wrote declining to weaken his force. He was 
already inferior to the United States army under Boyd, 
which was then confronting him, resting upon Fort George ; 
and there was the prospect also that Chauncey might regain 
control of the lake. Instead of co-operation for offence, he 
transmitted arrangements for retreat in case of a disaster to 
Yeo on Ontario. Procter enclosed this letter to the com- 
mander-in-chief, remarking pathetically that he was fully 
confident of receiving aid from him, but intentions were of 
no avail. Had the force oi-dered been sent, he felt sure of 
destroying the fleet at Erie, thus securing the command 
of the lake, which would have benefited also the centre 
[Niagara] division. He should now, he said, make an 
attempt upon Sandusky; Erie was impossible without 
re-enforcements. At the same time, July 13, Captain Bar- 
clay was about to sail for Long Point, on the Canada 

1 The data of this paragraph are taken from the Report on Canadian 
Archives. 1896, Tvower Canada, pp. 132, 138-140. Barclay in his Defence be- 
fore the Court Martial mentions the designs on Erie. 

70 THE WAR OF 1812 

shore directly opposite Erie, to embark one hundred troops, 
and then to endeavor to retain the American fleet in port 
until the required assistance could be sent. The new Brit- 
ish ship "Detroit " was nearly ready for launching at Am- 
herstburg, and could be equipped and gunned there ; but 
seamen were absolutely needed. 

In accordance with these plans Barclay went with his 
squadron to Long Point. There the desired soldiers were 
refused him; and, as also no seamen were forthcoming, 
he wrote on July 16 a letter directly to Sir George Pre- 
vost, " lest Sir James Yeo should be on the lake," repre- 
senting the critical state of affairs, owing to the inadequate 
equipment of his vessels, the want of seamen, and the 
advanced preparations of the Americans to put afloat a 
force superior to his. July 20 he appeared off Erie, where 
Perry's fleet was still in the harbor, waiting for men. How 
imminent the exposure of the American flotilla at that mo- 
ment, and how great the British opportunity, appears from 
the recently published memoirs of a prominent resident.^ 
" An English fleet of five vessels of war was at that time 
cruising off the harbor, in full view. That fleet might at 
any time have sent in its boats during a dark night, and 
the destruction of the whole American fleet was almost 
inevitable ; for Perry's force was totally inadequate to its 
defence, and the regiment of Pennsylvania militia, stationed 
at Erie expressly for the defence of the fleet, refused to 
keep guard at night on board. ' I told the boys to go, Cap- 
tain,' said the worthless colonel of the regiment, ' but the 
boys won't go.' " Like American merchant ships, Ameri- 
can mihtia obeyed or disobeyed as they pleased. Two 
hundred soldiers, loaned by Dearborn when the Black Rock 
flotilla came round, had been recalled July 1 0. On the 23d 

1 Harm Jan Huidekoper, by Nina Moore Tiffany and Francis Tiffany. 
1904. p. 187. Mr. Huidekoper speaks admiringly of the unfaltering com- 
posure and cheerfulness which under these circumstances accompanied Perry's 


and 30th re-enforcements were received from Chauncey, in 
all one hundred and thirty men. With these, and some 
landsmen enlisted on the spot for four months, the force 
of the squadron, estimated to require seven hundred and 
forty men, was raised to three hundred ; but having lately 
received two pressing lettei-s from the Navy Department, 
urging General Harrison's critical need of co-opei-ation, 
Perry determined to go out. Most opportunely for his 
purpose, Barclay disappeared on the 30th, Friday, which 
thus for him made good its title to " unlucky." He was 
absent until August 4, and was by the Americans believed 
to have gone to Long Point. Before his Court Martial 
he merely stated that " I blockaded as closely as I could, 
until I one morning saw the whole of the enemy's force 
over the bar, and in a most formidable state of prepara- 
tion." The Court did not press inquiry on the point, 
which perhaps lay beyond its instructions ; but the double 
failure, to intercept the Black Rock division on its way 
to Erie,i and to prevent the crossing of the bar, were 
serious strategic misadventures when confronting superior 
numbers. Perry's preparations for the passage had been 
for some time completed, but information of contemplated 
movements travelled so easily from shore to shore that he 
gave no indication of immediate action until Sunday. On 
that day the officers w-ere permitted to disperse in town as 
usual, but afterwards were hastily summoned back, and 
the vessels moved down to the bar, on which the depth 
ordinarily was from five to seven feet, much less than 
needed for the " Lawrence " and " Niagara." This obstacle, 
hitherto a protection against naval attack, now imposed an 
extremely critical operation ; for to get over, the brigs must 
be lightened of their guns and their hulls lifted upon floats. 
So situated, they were helplessly exposed to destruction, as 
far as their own powers went. 

1 See ante, p. 41. 

72 THE WAR OF 1812 

From point to point the mouth of the harbor, where the 
outer bar occurs, was eight tenths of a mile wide. As 
shown by a sketch of the period, the distance to be trav- 
elled on the floats, from deep water within to deep water 
without, was a mile ; rather less than more. On Monday 
morning, August 2, the movement of the vessels began 
simultaneously. Five of the smaller, which under usual 
conditions could pass without hghtening, were ordered to 
cross and take positions outside, covering the channel; 
a sixth, with the " Niagara," were similarly posted within. 
The protection thus afforded was re-enforced by three 12- 
pounder long guns, mounted on the beach, abreast the 
bar; distant not over five hundred yards from the point 
where the channel issued on the lake. While these dis- 
positions were being made, the " Lawrence's " guns were 
hoisted out, and placed in boats to be towed astern of her ; 
the floats taken alongside, filled, sunk, and made fast, so 
that when pumped out their rising would hft the brig. In 
the course of these preparations it was found that the water 
had fallen to four feet, so that even the schooners had to 
be lightened, while the transit of the " Lawrence " was ren- 
dered more tedious and difficult. The weather, however, 
was propitious, with a smooth lake ; and although the brig 
grounded in the shoalest spot, necessitating a second sink- 
ing of the burden-bearing floats, — appropriately called 
" camels," — perseverance protracted through that night 
and the day of the 3d carried her outside. At 8 a.m. of 
the 4th she was fairly afloat. Guns, singly light in weight 
as hers were, were quickly hoisted on board and mounted ; 
but none too soon, for the enemy appeared almost imme- 
diately. The "Niagara's" passage was more easily effected, 
and Barclay offered no molestation. In a letter to the De- 
partment, dated August 4, 1813, 9 p.m., Perry reported, "I 
have great pleasure in informing you that I have succeeded 
in getting over the bar the United States vessels, the 


'Lawrence,' 'Niagara,' 'Caledonia,' 'Ariel,' 'Scorpion,' 
'Somers,' 'Tigress,' and 'Porcupine.'" He added, "The 
enemy have been in sight all day." The vessels named, 
with the schooner " Ohio " and the sloop " Trippe," con- 
stituted the entire squadron. 

While Perry was thus profitably employed, Procter had 
embarked on anotlier enterprise against the magazines on 
the American front of operations. His intention, as first 
reported to Prevost, was to attack Sandusky; but the 
conduct of the Indians, upon the co-operation of whom 
he had to rely, compelled him to diverge to Fort Meigs. 
Here the savages began to desert, an attempt to draw 
the garrison into an ambush having failed ; and when 
Procter, after two days' stay, determined to revert to 
Sandusky, he was accompanied by "as many hundred of 
them as there should have been thousands." The white 
troops went on by water, the Indians by the shore. They 
appeared before Fort Stephenson on Sunday, August 1. 
The garrison was summoned, with the customary intima- 
tion of the dire consequences to be apprehended from 
the savages in case of an assault. The American com- 
mander, Major Croghan, accepted these possibilities, and 
the following day, during which the " Lawrence " was 
working her way over Erie bar, the artillery and the 
guns of the gunboats were busy battering the northwest 
angle of the fort. At 4 p.m. an assault was made. It was 
repelled with heavy loss to the assailants, and little to 
the besieged. That night the baffled enemy withdrew 
to Maiden. 

The American squadron having gained the lake and 
mounted its batteries, Barclay found himself like Chauncey 
while awaiting the " General Pike." His new and most 
powerful vessel, the ship " Detroit," was approaching com- 
pletion. He was now too inferior in force to risk action 
when he might expect her help so soon, and he there- 

74 THE WAR OF 1812 

fore retired to Maiden. Perry was thus left in control of 
Lake Erie. He put out on August 6 ; but, failing to find 
the enemy, he anchored again off Erie, to take on board 
provisions, and also stores to be carried to Sandusky for 
the army. While thus occupied, there came on the even- 
ing of the 8th the welcome news that a re-enforcement of 
officers and seamen was approaching. On the 10th, these 
joined him to the number of one hundred and two. At 
their head was Commander Jesse D. Elliott, an officer of 
reputation, who became second in command to Perry, and 
took charge of the "Niagara." 

On August 12 the squadron finally made sail for the 
westward, not to return to Erie till the campaign was de- 
cided. Its intermediate movements possess little interest, 
the battle of Lake Erie being so conspicuously the decisive 
incident as to reduce all preceding it to insignificance. 
Perry was off Maiden on August 25, and again on Sep- 
tember 1. The wind on the latter day favoring movement 
both to go and come, a somewhat rare circumstance, he 
remained all day reconnoitring near the harbor's mouth. 
The British squadron appeared complete in vessels and 
equipment ; but Barclay had his own troubles about crews, 
as had his antagonist, his continual representations to Yeo 
meeting with even less attention than Perry conceived 
himself to receive from Chauncey. He was determined 
to postpone action until re-enforcements of seamen should 
arrive from the eastward, unless failure of provisions, al- 
ready staring him in the face, should force him to battle in 
order to re-establish communications by the lake. 

The headquarters of the United States squadron was 
at Put-in Bay, in the Bass Islands, a group thirty miles 
southeast of Maiden. The harbor was good, and the 
position suitable for watching the enemy, in case he should 
attempt to pass eastward down the lake, towards Long 
Point or elsewhere. Hither Perry returned on September 


6, after a brief visit to Sandusky Bay, where information 
was received that the British leaders had determined that 
the fleet must, at all hazards, restore intercourse with 
Long Point. From official correspondence, afterwards cap- 
tured with Procter's baggage, it appears that the Amherst- 
burg and Maiden district was now entirely dependent for 
flour upon Long Point, access to which had been effectu- 
ally destroyed by the presence of the American squadron. 
Even cattle, though somewhat more plentiful, could no 
longer be obtained in the neighborhood in sufficient num- 
bers, owing to tlie wasteful way in which the Indians had 
killed where they wanted. They could not be restrained 
without alienating them, or, worse, provoking them to out- 
rage. Including warriors and their families, fourteen thou- 
sand were now consuming provisions. In the condition 
of the roads, only water transport could meet the require- 
ments ; and that not by an occasional schooner running 
blockade, but by the free transit of supplies conferred by 
naval control. To the decision to fight may have been 
contributed also a letter from Prevost, who had been drawn 
down from Kingston to St. David's, on the Niagara fron- 
tier, by his anxiety about the general situation, particularly 
aroused by Procter's repulse from Fort Stephenson. Allud- 
ing to the capture of Chauncey's two schooners on August 
10, he wrote Procter on the 22d, " Yeo's experience should 
convince Barclay that he has only to dare and he will be 
successful." 1 It was to be Sir George's unhappy lot, a 
year later, to goad the British naval commander on Lake 
Champlain into premature action ; and there was ample 
time for the present indiscreet innuendo to reach Barclay, 
and impel him to a step which Prevost afterwards con- 
demned as hasty, because not awaiting the arrival of a body 
of fifty seamen announced to be at Kingston on their way 
to Maiden. 

1 Report on Canadian Archives, 1896. Lower Canada, p. 133. 

76 THE WAR OF 1812 

At sunrise of September 10, the lookout at the masthead 
of the " Lawrence " sighted the British squadron in the 
northwest. Barclay was on his way down the lake, in- 
tending to fight. The wind was southwest, fair for the 
British, but adverse to the Americans quitting the harbor 
by the channel leading towards the enemy. Fortunately 
it shifted to southeast, and there steadied ; which not only 
enabled them to go out, but gave them the windward posi- 
tion throughout the engagement. The windward position, 
or weather gage, as it was commonly called, conferred the 
power of initiative ; whereas the vessel or fleet to leeward, 
while it might by skill at times force action, or itself obtain 
the weather gage by manoeuvring, was commonly obliged 
to await attack and accept the distance chosen by the oppo- 
nent. Where the principal force of a squadron, as in 
Ferry's case, consists in two vessels armed almost entirely 
with carronades, the importance of getting within carronade 
range is apparent. 

Looking forward to a meeting, Perry had prearranged 
the disposition of his vessels to conform to that which he 
expected the enemy to assume. Unlike ocean fleets, all 
the lake squadrons, as is already known of Ontario, were 
composed of vessels very heterogeneous in character. This 
was because the most had been bought, not designed for 
the navy. It was antecedently probable, therefore, that a 
certain general principle would dictate the constitution of 
the three parts of the order of battle, the centre and two 
flanks, into which every military line divides. The French 
have an expression for the centre, — corps de bataille, — 
which was particularly appropriate to squadrons like those 
of Barclay and Perry. Each had a natural "body of 
battle," in vessels decisively stronger than all the others 
combined. This relatively powerful division would take 
the centre, as a cohesive force, to prevent the two ends — 
or flanks — being driven asunder by the enemy. Barclay's 


vessels of this class were the new ship, " Detroit," and the 
" Queen Charlotte ; " Peny's were the " Lawrence " and 
*' Niagara." Each had an intermediate vessel ; the British 
the " Lady Prevost," the Americans the " Caledonia." In 
addition to these were the light craft, three British and six 
Americans; concerning which it is to be said that the 
latter were not only the more numerous, but individually 
much more powerfully armed. 

The same remark is true, vessel for vessel, of those 
opposed to one another by Perry's plan ; that is, measuring 
the weight of shot discharged at a broadside, which is the 
usual standard of corapaiison, the " Lawrence " threw more 
metal than the " Detroit," the " Niagara " much more 
than the " Queen Charlotte," and the " Caledonia," than 
the " Lady Prevost." This, however, must be qualified by 
the consideration, more conspicuously noticeable on 
Ontario than on Erie, of the greater length of range of 
the long gun. This applies particularly to the principal 
British vessel, the " Detroit." Owing to the difficulties of 
ti'ansportation, and the demands of the Ontario squadron, 
her proper armament had not arrived. She was provided 
with guns from the ramparts of Fort Maiden, and a more 
curiously composite batteiy probably never was moimted ; 
but, of the total nineteen, seventeen were long guns. It is 
impossible to say what her broadside may have weighed. 
All her pieces together fired two hundred and thirty 
pounds, but it is incredible that a seaman like Barclay 
should not so have disposed them as to give more than 
half that amount to one broadside. That of the "Law- 
rence," was three hundred pounds ; but all her guns, save 
two twelves, were carronades. Compared with the "Queen 
Charlotte," the battery of the " Niagara " was as 3 to 2 ; 
both chiefly carronades. 

From what has been stated, it is evident that if Peny's 
plan were carried out, opposing vessel to vessel, the 

78 THE WAR OF 1812 

Americans would have a superiority of at least fifty per 
cent. Such an advantage, in some quarter at least, is the 
aim 01 every capable commander ; for the object of war is 
not to kill men, but to carry a point : not glory by fighting, 
but success in result. The only obvious dangers were 
that the wind might fail or be very light, which would 
unduly protract exposure to long guns before getting 
within carronade range ; or that, by some vessels coming 
tardily into action, one or more of the others would suffer 
from concentration of the enemy's fire. It was this con- 
tingency, realized in fact, which gave rise to the embittered 
controversy about the battle ; a controversy never settled, 
and probably now not susceptible of settlement, because 
the President of the United States, Mr. Monroe, pigeon- 
holed the charges formulated by Perry against Elliott in 
1818. There is thus no American sworn testimony to 
facts, searched and sifted by cross-examination; for the 
affidavits submitted on the one side and the other were 
ex parte^ while the Court of Inquiry, asked by Elliott in 
1815, neglected to call all accessible witnesses — notably 
Perry himself. In fact, there Avas not before it a single 
commanding officer of a vessel engaged. Such a procedure 
was manifestly inadequate to the requirement of the Navy 
Department's letter to the Court, that " a true statement 
of the facts in relation to Captain Elliott's conduct be 
exhibited to the world." Investigation seems to have 
been confined to an assertion in a British periodical, based 
upon the proceedings of the Court Martial upon Barclay, 
to the effect that Elliott's vessel " had not been engaged, 
and was making away," ^ at the time when Perry " was 

1 This statement appeared in the course of a summary of the evidence be- 
fore the British Court, given by the Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxii. pp. 241-242. 
The only support to it in the evidence, as recorded, is Barclay's official letter, 
which he appears to have confirmed under oath, that the " Niagara" kept out 
of carronade range, and " was perfectly fresh at 2.30," when Perry went on 
board her. The first lieutenant of the " Queen Charlotte," who remained iu 
command, the captain being killed, corroborated Barclay as to her distance. 


obliged to leave liis ship, which soon after surrendered, and 
hoist his flag on board another of his squadron." The 
American Court examined two officers of Perry's vessel, 
and five of Elliott's ; no others. To the direct question, 
" Did the ' Niagara ' at any time during the action attempt 
to make off from the British fleet?" all replied, "No." 
The Court, therefore, on the testimony before it, decided 
that the charge " made in the proceedings ^ of the British 
Court Martial .... was mahcious, and unfounded in 
fact ; " expressing besides its conviction "that the attempts 
to wrest from Captain Elliott the laurels he gained in that 
splendid victory . . . ought in no wise to lessen him in 
the opinion of his fellow citizens as a bitive and skilful 
officer." At the same time it regretted that " imperi- 
ous duty compelled it to promulgate testimony which ap- 
pears materially to differ in some of its most important 

In this state the evidence still remains, owing to the 
failure of the President to take action, probably with a 
benevolent desire to allay discord, and envelop facts under 
a kindly " All 's well that ends weU." Perry died a year 
after making his charges, which labored under the just 
imputation that he had commended Elliott in his report, 
and again immediately afterwards, though in terms that his 
subordinate thought failed to do him justice. American 
naval opinion divided, apparently in very unequal numbere. 
Elliott's officers stood by him, as was natural; for men 
feel themselves involved in that which concerns the con- 
duct of their ship, and see incidents in that light. Perry's 
officers considered that the " Lawrence" had not been 
properly supported; owing to which, after losses almost 
unparalleled, she had to undergo the mortification of sur- 

1 In the finding — or verdict — of the British Court, as in the evidence, 
there is no expression of a charge that the " Niagara " was making awav. The 
finding restricted itself to the matter before the Court, namely, Barclay's 
o£Scial conduct. 

80 THE WAR OF 1813 

render. Her heroism, her losses, and her surrender, were 
truths beyond question. 

The historian to-day thus finds himself in the dilemma 
that the American testimony is in two categories, distinctly 
contradictory and mutually destructive ; yet to be tested 
only by his own capacity to cross-examine the record, 
and by reference to the British accounts. The latter are 
impartial, as between the American parties ; their only 
bias is to constitute a fair case for Barclay, by establishing 
the surrender of the American flagship and the hesitancy 
of the " Niagara " to enter into action. This would indi- 
cate victory so far, changed to defeat by the use Perry made 
of the vessel preserved to him intact by the over-caution of 
his second. Waiving motives, these claims are substantially 
correct, and constitute the analysis of the battle as fought 
and won. 

Barclay, finding the wind to head him and place him to 
leeward, arranged his fleet to await attack in the follow- 
ing order, from van to rear : The schooner " Chippewa," 
" Detroit," " Hunter," " Queen Charlotte," " Lady Prevost," 
" Little Belt." ^ This, he said in his official letter, was " ac- 
cording to a given plan, so that each ship [that is, the 
" Detroit" and " Queen Charlotte"] might be supported 
against the superior force of the two brigs opposed to them." 
The British vessels lay in column, in each other's wake, 
by the wind on the port tack, hove-to (stopped) with a 
topsail to the mast, heading to the southwest (position 1). 
Perry now modified some details of his disposition. It 
had been expected that the " Queen Charlotte " would 
precede the " Detroit," and the American commander had 

1 There was a question whether the " Hunter " was ahead or astern of tlie 
" Queen Charlotte." In the author's opinion the balance of evidence is as 
stated in the text. Perry rearranged his line with reference to the British, 
upon seeing their array. Had the " Charlotte" been next the " Detroit," as 
James puts her, it seems probable he would have placed the " Niagara " next 
the " Lawrence." 


therefore placed the " Niagara " leading, as designated to 
fight the " Charlotte," the " Lawrence " following the 
** Niagara." This order was now reversed, and the " Cale- 
donia " interposed between the two ; the succession being 
" Lawrence," " Caledonia," " Niagara." Having more 
schooners than the enemy, he placed in the van two of 
the best, the "Scoi-pion" and the "Ariel"; the other 
four behind the "Niagara." His centre, therefore, the 
"Lawrence," "Caledonia," and "Niagara," were opposed 
to the "Detroit," "Hunter," and "Queen Charlotte." 
The long guns of the " Ariel," " Scorpion," and " Cale- 
donia " supplied in measure the deficiency of gun power 
in the " Lawrence," while standing down outside of carron- 
ade range ; the " Caledonia," with the rear schooners, giv- 
ing a like support to the " Niagara." The " Ariel," and 
perhaps also the " Scorpion," was ordered to keep a little 
to windward of the " Lawrence." This was a not uncommon 
use of van vessels, making more hazardous any attempt 
of the opponent to tack and pass to windward, in order 
to gain the weather gage with its particular advantages 
(position 1). 

The rear four schooners, as is frequently the case in long 
columns, were straggUng somewhat at the time the signal 
to bear down was made ; and they had difficulty in getting 
into action, being compelled to resort to the sweeps be- 
cause the wind was light. It is not uncommon to see 
small vessels with low sails thus retarded, while larger are 
being urged forward by their lofty light canvas. The 
line otherwise having been formed, Perry stood down 
without regard to them. At quarter before noon the 
" Detroit " opened upon the " Lawrence " with her long 
guns. Ten minutes later the Americans began to reply. 
Finding the British fire at this range more destructive 
than he had anticipated, Perry made more sail upon the 
Lawrence. Word had already been passed by hail of 

VOL. II. 6 

82 THE WAR OF 1812 

trumpet to close up in the line, and for each vessel to 
come into action against her opponent, before designated. 
The " Lawrence " continued thus to approach obliquely, 
using her own long twelves, and backed by the long 
guns of the vessels ahead and astern, till she was within 
"canister range," apparently about two hundred and fifty 
yards, when she turned her side to the wind on the weather 
quarter of the "Detroit," bringing her carronade battery to 
bear (position 2). This distance was greater than desirable 
for carronades ; but with a very light breeze, little more 
than two miles an hour, there was a limit to the time during 
which it was prudent to allow an opponent's raking fire to 
play, unaffected in aim by any reply. Moreover, much of 
her rigging was already shot away, and she was becoming 
unmanageable. The battle was thus joined by the com- 
mander-in-chief; but, while supported to his satisfaction 
by the " Scorpion " and " Ariel " ahead, and " Caledonia " 
astern, with their long guns, the " Niagara " did not come 
up, and her carronades failed to do their share. The captain 
of her opponent, the " Queen Charlotte," finding that his 
own carronades would not reach her, made sail ahead, 
passed the "Hunter," and brought his battery to the 
support of the " Detroit " in her contest with the " Law- 
rence " (Q2). Perry's vessel thus found herself under the 
combined fire of the " Detroit," " Queen Charlotte," and 
in some measure of the " Hunter " ; the armament of the 
last, however, was too trivial to count for much. 

Elliott's first placing of the " Niagara " may, or may not, 
have been judicious as regards his particular opponent. 
The " Queen Charlotte's " twenty-fours would not reach 
him; and it may be quite proper to take a range where 
your own guns can tell and your enemy's cannot. Circum- 
stance must determine. The precaution applicable in a 
naval duel may cease to be so when friends are in need of 
assistance ; and when the British captain, seeing how the 




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case stood, properly and promptly carried his ship forwai-d 
to support his commander, concentrating two vessels upon 
Perry's one, the situation was entirely changed. The plea 
set up by Cooper, who fought Elliott's battle conscientiously, 
but with characteristic bitterness as well as shrewdness, that 
the " Niagara's " position, assigned in the line behind the 
"Caledonia," could not properly be left without signal, 
practically surrenders the case. It is applying the dry-rot 
system of fleet tactics in the middle of the eighteenth 
century to the days after Rodney and Xelson, and is further 
effectually disposed of by the consentient statement of sev- 
eral of the American captains, that their commander's dis- 
positions were made with reference to the enemy's order ; 
that is, that he assigned a special enemy's ship to a special 
American, and particularly the " Detroit " to the " Law- 
rence," and the " Queen Charlotte " to the " Niagara." The 
vessels of both fleets being so heterogeneous, it was not wise 
to act as with units nearly homogeneous, by laying down an 
order, the governing principle of which was mutual support 
by a line based upon its own intrinsic qualities. The con- 
siderations dictating Perrj^'s dispositions were external to 
his fleet, not internal ; in the enemy's order, not in his own. 
This was emphasized by his changing the previously ar- 
ranged stations of the " Lawrence " and the " Niagara,'* 
when he saw Barclay's line. Lastly, he re-enforced all this 
by quoting to his subordinates Nelson's words, that no 
captain could go very far wrong who placed his vessel close 
alongside those of the enemy. 

Cooper, the ablest of Elliott's champions, has insisted so 
strongly upon the obligation of keeping the station in the 
line, as laid down, that it is necessary to examine the facts 
in the particular case. He rests the certainty of his con- 
tention on general principles, then long exploded, and 
further upon a sentence in Perry's charges, preferred in 
1818, that " the commanding officer [Periy] issued, 1st, an 

84 THE WAR OF 1812 

order directing in what manner the line of battle should 
be formed . . . and enjoined upon the commanders to pre- 
serve their stations in the line " thus laid down.^ This is 
correct ; but Cooper omits to give the words immediately- 
following in the specification : " and in all cases to keep as 
near the commanding officer's vessel [the " Lawrence "] as 
possible." 2 Cooper also omits that which next succeeds : 
" 2d, An order of attack, in which the ' Lawrence ' was 
designated to attack the enemy's new ship (afterwards 
ascertained to have been named the ' Detroit '), and the 
* Niagara ' designated to attack the ' Queen Charlotte,' 
which orders were then communicated to all the com- 
manders, including the said Captain Elliott, who for that 
purpose . . . were by signal called together by the said 
commanding officer . . . and expressly instructed that ' if, 
in the expected engagement, they laid their vessels close 
alongside of those of the enemy, they could not be out of the 
way.' " ^ An officer, if at once gallant and intelligent, find- 
ing himself behind a dull sailing vessel, as Cooper tells us 
the " Caledonia " was, could hardly desire clearer autliority 
than the above to imitate his commanding officer when he 
made sail to close the enemy : — " Keep close to him," and 
follow up the ship which " the ' Niagara ' was designated 
to attack." 

Charges preferred are not technical legal proof, but, if 
duly scrutinized, they are statements equivalent in value 
to many that history rightly accepts; and, at all events, 
that which Cooper quotes is not duly scrutinized if that 
which he does not quote is omitted. He does indeed ex- 
press a gloss upon them, in the words : " Though the 
' Niagara ' was ordered to direct her fire at the ' Queen 
Charlotte,' it could only be done from her station astern of 

1 Cooper, Battle of Lake Erie, p. 63. 

2 See Mackenzie's Life of Perry, 5th edition, vol. ii. pp. 251-252. Perry's 
charges against Elliott, dated Aug. 8, 1818, are there given in full. 

' See Mackenzie's Life of Perry, 5th edition, vol. ii. pp. 251-252, 


the 'Caledonia,' . . . without violating the primarj' order 
to preserve the line." ^ This does not correctly construe 
the natural meaning of Perry's full instructions. It is 
clear that, while he laid down a primary formation, "a 
line of battle/' he also most properly qualified it by a con- 
tingent instruction, an " order of attack," designed to meet 
the emergency likely to occur in every fleet engagement, 
and which occurred here, when a slavish adherence to the 
line of battle would prevent intelligent support to the main 
effort. If he knew naval histoiy, as liis quotation from 
Nelson indicates, he also knew how many a battle had been 
discreditably lost by " keeping the line." 

With regard to the line, however, it is apt to remark 
that in fleet battle, unless otherwise specially directed, the 
line of the assailant was supposed to be parallel to that of 
the defence, for the obvious reason that the attacking ves- 
sels should all be substantially at the same effective range. 
This distance, equal for all in fleets as usually constituted, 
would natiu-ally be set, and in practice was set, by the 
commander-in-chief; his ship forming the point through 
which should be drawn the line parallel to the enemy. 
This rule, well established under Rodney, who died in 
1792, was rigidly applicable between vessels of the same 
force, such as the " Lawrence " and " Niagara ; " and what- 
ever deductions might be made for the case of a hght- 
framed vessel, armed with long guns, like the " Caledonia," 
keeping out of carronade distance of an opponent with heavy 
scantling, would not in the least apply to the " Niagara," 
For her, the standard of position was not, as Cooper insists, 
a half-cable's length from her next ahead, the '' Caledonia ; " 
but abreast her designated opponent, at the same distance 
as the " Lawrence " from the enemy's line. Repeated mis- 
haps had established the rule that position was to be taken 
from the centre, — that is, from the commander-in-chief. 
1 Cooper's Battle of J.Ake Erie, p. 63. 

86 THE WAR OF 1812 

Ships in line of battle, bearing down upon an enemy in like 
order, did not steer in each other's wake, unless specially- 
ordered ; and there is something difficult to understand in 
the " Niagara " with her topsail sharp aback to keep from 
running on board the " Caledonia," although the fact is in 
evidence. The expression in Perry's report of the action, 
"at 10 A.M. . . . formed the line and bore up," would by 
a person familiar with naval battles be understood to mean 
that the line was first formed parallel to the enemy, the 
vessels following one another, after which they steered down 
for him, changing course together ; they would then no 
longer be in each other's wake, but in echelon, or as the 
naval phrase then went, in bow and quarter line. Bar- 
clay confirms this, "At 10 the enemy bore up under 
easy sail, in a line abreast." ^ Thus, when the distance 
desired by the commander-in-chief was reached, — a fact 
more often indicated by his example than by signal, — 
the helm would bring them again in line of battle, their 
broadsides bearing upon the enemy. 

The technical point at issue is whether Perry, finding the 
long-gun fire of the "Detroit" more destructive than he had 
anticipated, and determining in consequence to shorten the 
period of its duration by changing his original plan, in- 
creasing sail beyond the speed of such slower vessels as the 
"Caledonia," had a right to expect that his subordinates 
would follow his example. In the opinion of the writer, 
he had, in the then condition of the theory and practice of 
fleet battles ; his transfer of his own position transferred 
the line of battle in its entirety to the distance relative to 
the enemy which he himself was seeking to assume. 
Were other authority lacking, his action was warrant to 
his captains ; but the expression in his report, " I made 
sail, and directed the other vessels to follow, for the pur- 
pose of closing with the enemy," causes increased regret 

1 Barclay's Report, Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxi. p. 251. 


that the exact facts were not ascertained by cross-examina- 
tion before a Coui't-Martial. 

Elliott's place therefore was alongside the "Queen 
Charlotte," so to engage her that she could attend to nothing 
else. This he did not do, and for failure the only possible 
excuse was inability, through lack of wind. The wind was-^ 
light throughout, yet not so light but that the " Lawrence " 
closed with the " Detroit," and the " Queen Charlotte " with 
her flagship when she wished. None of Elliott's witnesses 
before the Court of Inquiry state that he made sad before 
the middle of the action, but they attribute the failure to 
get down to the lightness of the wind. They do state that, 
after the " Lawrence " was disabled, a breeze springing up, 
sail was made ; which indicates that previously it had not 
been. Again, it is alleged by the testimony in favor of 
Elliott that much of the time the maintopsail was sharp 
aback, to keep from running into the " Caledonia ; " a cir- 
cumstance upon which Cooper dwells triumphantly, as 
showing that the " Niagara " was not by the wind and was 
in her place, close astern of the " Caledonia." Accepting the 
statements, they would show there was wind enough to fan 
the " Niagara "to — what was really her place — her com- 
modore's aid ; for in those days the distance between under 
fire and out of fire for efficient action was a matter of half 
a mile.i Periy's formulated charge, addressed to the Navy 
Department, and notified to Elliott, but never brought to 
trial, was that when coming into action an order was passed 
by trumpet for the vessels astern to close up in the line ; 

1 The range of a 32 pdr. carronade, with which the " Niagara " was armed, 
throwing one solid shot, with \ degree elevation, — substantially point-blank, 
— was 260 yards; at 5 degrees, 1260 yards. The difference, 1000 yards, is 
just half a sea mile. A British professional writer of that day, criticising 
their commander's choice of position at Lake Champlain, says : " At 1000 or 
1 1 00 yards the elevation necessary to be given a carronade would have been 
so great that none but chance shots [from the Americans] could have takea 
effect ; whereas, in closing, he gave up this advantage." Naval Chronicle, 
ToL xxxiii. p. 132. 

88 THE WAR OF 1812 

that a few moments previously to the enemy's opening fire 
the " Niagara " had been within hail of the " Lawrence," 
and nevertheless she was allowed to drop astern, and for 
two hours to remain at such distance from the enemy as to 
render useless all her battery except the two long guns. 
♦ Perry himself made sail at the time the hail by trumpet 
was passed. The " Niagara " did not. 

There is little reason for doubt that the tenor of Perry's 
instructions required Elliott to follow the " Queen Char- 
lotte," and no doubt whatever that military propriety im- 
periously demanded it of him. The question of wind must 
be matter of inference from the incidents above stated : the 
movement of the " Lawrence " and " Queen Charlotte," and 
the bracing aback of the " Niagara's " topsail. A sentence 
in Perry's report apparently, but only apparently, attenu- 
ates the force of these. He said, " At half-past two, the 
wind springing up. Captain Elliott was enabled to bring his 
vessel, the ' Niagara,' gallantly into close action." Allud- 
ing to, without insisting on. Perry's subsequent statement 
that he endeavored to give as favorable a color as possible 
to Elliott's course, it is clear enough that these words 
simply state that Captain Elliott at 2.30 reached the range 
at which the " Lawrence " had fought since a little after 

Quitting now the discussion of proprieties, the order of 
events seems to have been as follows : Perry having taken 
the initiative of bearing down, under increased sail, Elliott 
remained behind, governed by, or availing himself of — two 
very different motives, not lightly to be determined, or 
assumed, by the historian — the technical point, long be- 
fore abandoned in practice, that he could not leave his 
place in the line without a signal. Thus his action was 
controlled by the position of his next ahead in the line, the 
dull-sailing " Caledonia," a vessel differing radically from 
his own in armament, having two long and for that day 


heavy guns, quite equal in range and efficiency to the best 
of the " Detroit's," ^ and therefore capable of good service, 
though possibly not of their best, from the distance at 
which Peny changed his speed. Elliott's battery was 
the same as Perry's. He thus continued until it became 
evident that, the " Queen Charlotte " having gone to the 
support of the " Detroit," the " Lawrence" was heavily over- 
powered. Then, not earlier than an hour after Perry bore 
down, he realized that his commander-in-chief would be 
destroyed under his eyes, unless he went to his support, 
and he himself would rest under the imputation of an 
inefficient spectator. He oidered the " Caledonia " to 
bear up, in order that he might pass (position 3 ; Cj, C2). 
Though not demonstrably certain, it seems probable that 
the wind, light throughout, was now so fallen as to im- 
pede the retrieval of his position ; the opportunity to close, 
used by Perry, had passed away. At all events it was 
not tin between 2 and 2.30 that the " Niagara " arrived 
on the scene, within effective range of the carronades 
which constituted nine tenths of her battery. 

With this began the second stage of the battle (3). 
Perrj^'s bearing down, receiving only the support of the 
long guns of the " Caledonia " and of the schooners ahead 
of him, had brought the " Lawrence " into hot engagement 
with the "Detroit," supported a half hour later by the 
" Queen Charlotte." By a little after two o'clock both flag- 
ships were well-nigh disabled, hull and battery ; the " Law- 
rence " most so, having but one gun left out of ten on the 
broadside. " At 2.30," wrote Barclay, " the Detroit was a 
perfect wreck, principally from the raking fire of the gun- 
boats." Which gunboats? Evidently the "Ariel" and 
" Scorpion," for all agree that the rear four were at this 

1 The " Caledonia " had two long 24-pounders, and one other lighter gun, 
varionslj stated. The " Detroit's " heaviest were also two long 24's ; she had 
besides one long 18, six long 12'?!, etc. 

90 THE WAR OF 1812 

hour still far astern, though not absolutely out of range. 
To these last was probably due the crippling of the " Lady 
Prevost," which by now had gone to leeward with her 
rudder injured. Up to this time, when the first scene 
closed, what had been the general course of the action ? 
and what now the situation ? Assuming, as is very prob- 
able, that Barclay did not open with his long 24's until 
Perry was a mile, two thousand yards, from him, — that 
distance requiring six degrees elevation for those guns, — 
an estimate of speeds and courses, as indicated by the 
evidence, would put the " Lawrence " in action, at two 
hundred and fifty yards, at 12.10. This calculation, made 
independently, received subsequent confirmation in con- 
sulting Barclay's report, which says 12.15.^ The same 
time, for the duller "Caledonia" and the "Niagara," 
would place them one thousand yards from the British 
line. This range, for the 32-pounder carronades of the 
" Niagara," and the 24's of the " Queen Charlotte," re- 
quired an elevation of from four to six degrees. Coup- 
ling this with the British statement, that the carronades of 
the " Charlotte " could not reach the " Niagara," we obtain 
probable positions, two hundred and fifty yards and one 
thousand yards, for the principal two American vessels at 
quarter-past noon. 

1 With reference to times, always very difficult to establish, and often very 
important as bases of calculation, the following extract from the Diary of Dr. 
Usher Parsons, surgeon of the " Lawrence," possesses value ; the more so as it 
is believed to have been copied from the log of the vessel, which afterwards 
disappeared. The phraseology is that of a log and a seaman, not of a physician. 
" At 10 called all hands to quarters. A quarter before meridian the enemy 
began action at one mile distance. In a half hour came within musket-shot 
of the enemy's new ship. ... At 1.30, so entirely disal)led we could work the 
brig no longer. At 2 p.m., most of the guns were dismounted, breechings gone, 
or carriages knocked to pieces. At half-past two, when not another gun 
could be worked or fired, Captain Perry hauled down the fighting flag [not 
the national Hag], which bore this motto ' Don't give up the ship,' and re- 
paired on board the ' Niagara,' where he raised it again. In ten minutes after 
we struck." Publications of the Rhode Island Historical Society, vol. vii. 
p. 244. This was called to the author's attention after the account in the 
text was written. 


From the general lightness and occasional failure of the 
wind up to 2 p.m., it is more than likely that no great change 
took place before that hour. What air there was might 
touch all alike, but would affect least the "Lawrence," 
" Detroit," and " Queen Charlotte," because their sails were 
being rent ; and also they were in the centre of the can- 
nonade, which is believed usually to kill the breeze. The 
tendency of the " Caledonia," " Niagara," and American 
vessels in rear of them, between 12.30 and 2 p.m., during 
which period, to use Barclay's report, " the action con- 
tinued with great fury," would therefore be to approach 
slowly the scene where the " Lawrence," supported by the 
long guns of the " Ariel," " Scorpion," and " Caledonia," 
maintained the day against the " Detroit " and " Queen 
Charlotte," backed by the schooner " Chippewa " and the 
6 and 4 pounder pop-guns of the " Hunter." How near 
they drew is a mere matter of estimate. Taking all to- 
gether, it may be inferred that the "Niagara" had then 
been carried as close as five hundred to six hundred yards 
to the British line, but it would appear also towards its 
rear; rather, probably, that the British had advanced 
relatively to her, owing to her course being oblique to 

The situation then was as follows : The " Lawrence," 
disabled, was dropping astern of the " Detroit," " Queen 
Cliarlotte," and " Hunter." More than half her ship's 
company lay dead or woimded on her decks. Her loss, 83 
killed and wounded out of a total of 142, — sick included,^ 
— was mostly incurred before this. With only one gun 
left, she was a beaten ship, although her colors were up. 
The "Detroit" lay in the British line almost equally 
mauled. On her lee quarter, — that is, behmd, but on the 
lee side, — and close to her, was the " Queen Charlotte." 
Her captain, second to Barclay, had been killed, — the first 

^ Mackenzie's Life of Ferry, vol. ii. p. 283. 

92 THE WAR OF 1812 

man hit on board, — and her first lieutenant knocked sense- 
less ; being succeeded in command by an officer whom Bar- 
clay described as of little experience. The first lieutenant 
of the " Detroit " was also wounded mortally ; and Barclay 
himself, who already had been once hit in the thigh, was now 
a second time so severely injured, — being his eighth wound 
in battle, though now only thirty-two, — that he was forced 
at this critical instant to go below, leaving the deck with 
the second lieutenant. The " Hunter " was astern of her 
two consorts. The " Lady Prevost," fifth in the British 
order, had fallen to leeward with her rudder crippled. The 
position of the leading and rear British schooners is not 
mentioned, and is not important ; the reliance of each being 
one long 9-pounder gun. 

Before this, taking advantage of the breeze freshening, 
the " Niagara " had gone clear of the " Caledonia," on her 
windward side, and had stood to the southwest, towards 
the " Detroit." She had not at first either foresail or top- 
gallantsails set ; and since she passed the " Lawrence " to 
windward, she was then almost certainly over two hun- 
dred and fifty yards from the British line, for there is 
no conclusive proof that the " Lawi-ence " was nearer 
than that. Combining the narrative of the British com- 
modore with that of his second lieutenant, who now took 
charge, it appears that Barclay, before going below, saw 
a boat passing from the " Lawrence " to the " Niagara," 
and that the second lieutenant, Inglis, after relieving 
him, found the " Niagara " on the weather beam of the 
" Detroit." Perry, seeing the " Lawrence " incapable of 
further offensive action, had decided to leave her and go 
on board the "Niagara," and in this brief interval was 
making his passage from one vessel to the other. After 
leaving the " Lawrence " astern, the " Niagara " had made 
sail ; the foresail having been set, and the topgallantsails 
" in the act of being set, before Captain Perry came on 


board." ^ This necessarily prolonged the time of his pas- 
sage, and may have given rise to the opprobrious British 
report that she was making off. Her making sail as she 
did indicated that she had suffered little aloft; she had 
been out of carronade range, while her consort, still in 
fighting condition, was bearing the brunt ; it was natural 
to conclude that she would not alone renew the action, now 
that the " Lawrence " was hopelessly disabled. The wish, 
too, may possibly have helped the thought The " Law- 
rence," in fact, having kept her colors flying till Perry 
reached the " Niagara," struck immediately afterwards. 
Had she surrendered while he was on board, he could not 
honorably have quitted her; and the record was clearer 
by his reaching a fresh ship while the flag of the one he 
left was still up. 

What next happened is under no doubt so far as the 
movements of the " Niagara " are concerned, though there is 
irreconcilable difference as to who initiated the action. 
Immediately after Perry came on board, Elliott left her, 
to urge forward the rear gunboats. Her helm was put up, 
and she bore down ahead of the " Detroit " to rake her ; 
supported in so doing by the small vessels, presumably the 
" Ariel," " Scorpion," and " Caledonia." The British ship 
tried to wear, both to avoid being raked and to get her 
starboard battery into action ; many of the guns on the 
broadside heretofore engaged being disabled. The " Char- 
lotte " being on her lee quarter, and ranging ahead, the 
two fell foul, and so remained for some time. This con- 
dition gave free play to the American guns, which were 
soon after re-enforced by those of the rear gunboats ; enabled, 
like the " Niagara," to close with the freshening breeze. 
After the two British vessels got clear, another attempt 
was made to bring their batteries to bear ; but the end was 

^ Evidence of Midshipman Montgomery of the "Niagara," before the 
Court of Inquiry. 

94 THE WAR OF 1812 

inevitable, and is best told in the words of the officer upon 
whom devolved the duty of surrendering the "Detroit." 
" The ship lying completely unmanageable, every brace cut 
away, the mizzen-topmast and gaff down, all the other masts 
badly wounded, not a stay left forward, hull shattered very 
much, a number of guns disabled, and the enemy's squadron 
raking both ships ahead and astern, none of our own in 
a position to support us, I was under the painful necessity 
of answering the enemy to say we had struck, the ' Queen 
Charlotte ' having previously done so." ^ A Canadian 
officer taken prisoner at the battle of the Thames saw the 
" Detroit," a month later, at Put-in Bay. " It would be 
impossible," he wrote, " to place a hand upon that broad- 
side which had been exposed to the enemy's fire without 
covering some portion of a wound, either from grape, 
round, canister, or chain shot."^ Her loss in men was 
never specifically given. Barclay reported that of the 
squadron as a whole to be forty-one killed, ninety-four 
wounded. He had lost an arm at Trafalgar ; and on this 
occasion, besides other injuries, the one remaining to him 
was so shattered as to be still in bandages a year later, 
when he appeared before the Court Martial which em- 
phatically acquitted him of blame. The loss of the Ameri- 
can squadron was twenty-seven killed, ninety-six wounded ; 
of whom twenty-two killed and sixty-one wounded were 
on board the " Lawrence." 

Thus was the battle of Lake Erie fought and won. 
Captain Barclay not only had borne himself gallantly and 
tenaciously against a superior force, — favored in so doing- 
by the enemy attacking in detail, — but the testimony on 
his trial showed that he had labored diligently during the 
brief period of his command, amid surroundings of extreme 
difficulty, to equip his squadron, and to train to discipline 

1 Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxi. p. 252. 

2 Richardson, War of 1812, p. 243. 


and efficiency the heterogeneous material of which his 
crews were composed. The only point not satisfactorily 
covered is his absence when Perry was crossing the bar. 
In his defence his allusion to this incident is very casual, 
— resembles somewhat gliding rapidly over thin ice; but 
the Court raised no question, satisfied, probably, with the 
certainty that the honor of the flag had not suffered in 
the action. On the American side, since the history of 
a country is not merely the narrative of principal transac- 
tions, but the record also of honor reflected upon the 
nation by the distinguished men it produces, it is proper to 
consider the question of credit, which has been raised in 
this instance. There can be no doubt that opportunity 
must be seized as it is offered; for accident or chance 
may prevent its recurrence. Constituted as Perry's 
squadron was, the opportunity presented to him could be 
seized only by standing down as he did, trusting that the 
other vessels would follow the example of their commander. 
The shifting of the wind in the morning, and its failure 
during the engagement, alike testify to the urgency of 
taking the tide as it serves. There was no lagging, hke 
Chauncey's, to fetch up heavy schooners ; and the cam- 
paign was decided in a month, instead of remaining at 
the end of three months a drawn contest., to lapse thence- 
forth into a raee of ship-building. Had the " Xiagsira" fol- 
lowed closely, there could have been no doubling on the 
"Lawrence"; and Perry's confidence would have been justi- 
fied as well as his conduct The latter needs no apolog}-. 
Without the help of the " Niagara," the " Detroit " was 
reduced to a " defenceless state," and a " perfect wreck," ^ by 
the carronades of the " Lawrence," supported by the raking 
fire of the " Ariel " and " Scorpion." Both the expressions 
quoted are applied by the heroic Barclay to her condition 
at 2.30, when, as he also says, the " Niagara " was perfectly 

1 Barclay's Report. 

96 THE WAR OF 1812 

fresh. Not only was the " Detroit " thus put out of action, 
but the " Charlotte " was so damaged that she surrendered 
before her. To this the " Caledonia's " two long twenty- 
fours had contributed effectively. The first lieutenant 
of the "Queen Charlotte" testified that up to the time he 
was disabled, an hour or an hour and a quarter after the 
action began, the vessel was still manageable; that "the 
' Niagara ' engaged us on our quarter, out of carronade range, 
with what long guns she had ; but our principal injury was 
from the ' Caledonia,' who laid on our beam, with two 
long 24-pounders on pivots, also out of carronade-shot 
distance." ^ 

Is it to Perry, or to Elliott, that is due the credit of 
the " Niagara's " action in bearing up across the bows 
of the " Detroit " ? This is the second stage of the battle ; 
the bringing up the reserves. An absolute reply is im- 
possible in the face of the evidence, sworn but not cross- 
examined. A probable inference, which in the present 
writer amounts to conviction, is attainable. Before the 
Court of Inquiry, in 1815, Captain Elliott put the question 
to several of his witnesses, " Was not the ' Niagara's ' helm 
up and she standing direct for the ' Detroit ' when Captain 
Perry came on board ? " They replied, " Yes." All these 
were midshipmen. By a singular fatality most of the 
" Niagara's " responsible officers were already dead, and 
the one surviving lieutenant had been below, stunned, 
when Perry reached the deck. It may very possibly be 
that this answer applied only to the first change of course, 
when Elliott decided to leave his position behind the 
" Caledonia " ; but if it is claimed as covering also the 
subsequent bearing up eight points (at right angles), 
to cross the bows of the "Detroit," it is to be observed 
that no mention of this very important movement is made 
in a letter addressed to the Secretary of the Navy, October 
J 1 British Court Martial Record. 


13, 1813, one month after the battle, drawn up for the 
express purpose of vindicating Elliott, and signed by all 
the lieutenants of the "Niagara," and by the purser, who 
formerly had been a heutenant in the navy. Their ac- 
count was that Perry, on reaching the ship, said he feared 
the day was lost ; that Elliott replied it was not, that he 
would repair on board the rear schooners, and bring them 
up ; that he did so, and " the consequence icas that in ten 
minutes the ' Detroit ' and • ' Queen Charlotte ' vnth. the 
* Lady Prevost,' struck to us, and soon after the whole of 
the enemy's squadron followed their example." ^ This attri- 
butes the victory to the half-dozen long guns of the four 
schooners, mostly inferior in caliber to the nine carronades 
on board a single vessel, the " Niagara," raking within 
pistol-shot of antagonists already in the condition described 
by Barclay. Such a conclusion traverses all experience of 
the tactical advantage of guns massed under one captain 
over a like number distributed in several commands, and 
also contravenes the particular superiority of carronades at 
close quarters. An officer of the " Detroit," who was on 
deck throughout, testified that the " Lawrence " had en- 
gaged at musket-shot, the " Niagara," when she bore down 
under Perry, at pistol-shot. Barclay, and his surviving 
lieutenant, Inglis, both lay most weight upon this action 
of the " Niagara," from which arose also the fouling of the 
two largest British ships. 

Perry's charges of 1818 against Elliott formulated delib- 
erate statements, under the responsible expectation of cross- 
examination under oath. This is his account : " When the 
commanding officer [Perry] went on board the * Niagara,' 
Captain Elliott was keeping her on a course by the wind, 
which would in a few minutes have carried said vessel 
entirely out of action, to prevent which, and in order to 
bring the said vessel into close action with the enemy, the 

1 Navy Department, MSS. Miscellaneous Letters. My italics. 

VOL. II. — 7 

98 THE WAR OF 1812 

said commanding officer was under the necessity of heav- 
ing-to, stopping and immediately wearing said vessel, and 
altering her course at least eight points " ; that is, per- 
pendicular to the direction before steered. Against this 
solemn and serious charge is unquestionably to be placed 
the commendatory mention and letter given by Perry to 
Elliott immediately after the battle. Upon these also he 
had to expect the sharpest interrogation, to the mortifi- 
cation attendant upon which- he could only oppose evi- 
dence extenuative of, but in no case justifying, undeniable 
self-contradiction. If the formal charge was true, no ex- 
cuse can be admitted for the previous explicit commenda- 
tion. As a matter of historical inquiiy, however, such 
contradictions have to be met, and must be weighed in the 
light of all the testimony. The author's conclusion upon 
the whole is that, as Perry's action in first standing down 
insured decisive action, so by him was imparted to the 
" Niagara " the final direction which determined victory. 
The influence of the rear gunboats brought up by Elliott 
was contributive, but not decisive. 

In short, the campaign of Lake Erie was brought to an 
immediate successful issue by the ready initiative taken by 
Perry when he found the British distant fire more destruc- 
tive than he expected, and by his instant acceptance of nec- 
essary risk, in standing down exposed to a raking cannonade 
to which he for a long while could not reply. If, as the 
author holds, he was entitled to expect prompt imitation 
by the " Niagara," the risk was actual, but not undue. As 
it was, though the " Lawrence " surrendered, it was not 
Until she had, with the help of gunboats stationed by 
Perry for that object, so damaged both her opponents that 
they were incapable of further resistance. In the tactical 
management of the "Lawrence" and her supports was 
no mere headlong dash, but preparation adequate to con- 
ditions. Had the "Niagara" followed, the "Lawrence" 


need never have struck. The contemporary incidents on 
Erie and Ontario afford an instructive commentarj" upon 
Napoleon's incisive irony, that " War cannot be waged 
without running risks." There has been sufficient quota- 
tion from Chauncey to indicate why the campaign on 
Ontario dragged through two seasons, and then left the 
enemy in control. Small as the scale and the theatre of 
these naval operations, they illustrate the unvarying lesson 
that only in offensive action can defensive security be found. 

The destruction of the British naval force decided the 
campaign in the Northwest by transfening the control of 
the ^\'ater. Its general militar}' results were in this re- 
spect final. Nothing occurred to modify them during the 
rest of the war. Detroit and Michigan territory fell back 
into the hands of the United States; and the allegiance of 
the Indians to the British cause, procured by Brock's saga- 
cious daring a twelvemonth before, but rudely shaken by the 
events narrated, was destroyed by the death of their great 
leader, Tecumseh,a month later in the battle of the Thames, 
itself the direct consequence of Perry's success. The fron- 
tier was henceforth free from the Indian terror, which had 
hitherto disquieted it from the Maumee to Cleveland. 

A more far-reaching political issue was also here defi- 
nitely settled. A sense of having betrayed the Indian in- 
terests in the previous treaties of 1783 and 1794 was 
prevalent in British official circles, and in their counsels a 
scheme had been circulated for constituting an independ- 
ent Indian territory, under joint guarantee of the two 
nations, between their several dominions. This w^ould be 
locally within the boundaries of the United States ; the sole 
jurisdiction of which was thus to be limited and trammelled, 
because open to continual British representation and recla- 
mation, based upon treaty stipulations.^ This infringement 

1 This scheme appears ontlined in a letter of Oct. 5, 1812, to Lord 
Bathnrst from Sir George Prevost, who in support of it adduces Brock's 

100 THE WAR OF 1812 

upon the perfect sovereignty of the nation inside its own 
borders, in favor of savage communities and under foreign 
guarantee, was one of the propositions formally brought 
forward as a sine qud non by the British negotiators at 
Ghent. Although by that time the United States stood 
alone face to face with Great Britain, at whose full dis- 
posal were now the veterans of the Peninsular War, and 
the gigantic navy, which the abdication of Napoleon had 
released from all other opponents, the American commis- 
sioners refused with dignity to receive the proposition 
even for reference. " It is not necessary," they replied, 
" to refer such demands to the American Government for 
its instructions. They will only be a fit subject for de- 
liberation when it becomes necessary to decide upon 
the expediency of an absolute surrender of national 
independence," ^ 

The envoys of the United States were able to be firm,, 
because secure of indignant support by their people ; but 
it is beyond question that two naval victories had arrayed 
upon their side, at the moment, the preponderance of 
military argument, which weighs so heavily in treaties of 
peace. New Orleans was yet in the future, with adverse 
chances apparent ; but, owing to the victory of Perry, 
the United States was in firm military tenure of the terri- 
tory, the virtual cession of which was thus demanded. 
A year after Perry, McDonough's equally complete suc- 
cess on Lake Champlain, by insuring control of the water 

opinion (Canadian Archives MSS). Batliurst replied, Dec. 9, 1812, "I so en- 
tirely concur in the expediency of the suggestions contained in your despatch, 
as to the necessity of securing the territories of the Indians from encroach- 
ment, that I have submitted it to His Majesty's Secretary for Foreign 
Affairs, in order that whenever negotiations for peace may be entered into, 
the security of their possessions may not be either compromised or forgotten." 
(British Colonial Office Records). Prevost transmitted a copy of the letter 
to Admiral Warren, in his early diplomatic capacity as a peace envoy, 
Gordon Drummond, the successor of Brock, and later of Prevost, expressed 
the same interest (Canadian Archives MSS., April 2, 1814). 
1 American State Papers, Foreign Affairs, vol. iii. pp. 710-713. 


route for invasion, rolled back the army of Peninsular 
veterans under Prevost, at a season of the year which 
forbade all hope of renewing the enterprise until another 
spring. Great Britain was too eager to end twenty years 
of continued war to brook further delay. The lake cam- 
paigns of 1813 and 1814 thus emphasized the teaching of 
history as to the influence of control of the water upon 
the course of events ; and they illustrate also the too often 
forgotten truth, that it is not by brilliant individual feats 
of gallantry or skill, by ships or men, but by the massing 
of superior forces, that military issues are decided. For, 
although on a small scale, the lakes were oceans, and the 
forces which met on them were fleets ; and as, on a wider 
field and in more tremendous issues, the fleets of Great 
Britain saved their country and determined the fortunes 
of Europe, so Perry and McDonough averted from the 
United States, without further fighting, a rectification of 
frontier — as it is euphemistically styled, — the effecting 
of which is one of the most fruitful causes and frequent 
results of war in every continent and at every period. 

Note. — For the battle of Lake Erie, the most important original 'data 
are the Court Martial upon Barclay (British Records Office), and the Court 
of Inquiry held at Elliott's request, in April, 1815. The proceedings and 
testimony of the latter are published in the appendix to a " Biographical 
Notice of Commodore Jesse D. Elliott," by Russell Jarvis, Philadelphia, 
183». Ferry's Report of the battle, Sept. 13, 1813, is in American State 
Papers, Naval Affairs, voL i. p. 295. Barclay's report is in Naval Chronicle, 
vol. xxxi. pp. 250-253, as well as in the record of the Court. Jarvis, and 
Mackenzie's Life of Perry (5th edition), give a large number of affidavits by 
officers present in the engagement, and Mackenzie gives also a copy of the 
charges preferred by Perry in 1818 against Elliott. In the controversy 
which arose over the battle, Mackenzie, in the appendix to the fifth edition 
of Perry's Life, Duer, and Tristara Burges, Battle of Lake Erie (Boston, 
1839), are the principal champions on Perry's side; Jarvis (as above) and 
J. Fenimore Cooper, Battle of Lake Erie, on the side of Elliott; but the 
latter himself published several vindications of his conduct. The usual naval 
histories, American and British, may be consulted, and there are also inci- 
dental mentions and reports in Niles' Register and the British Naval Chron- 
icle, which will be foimd useful. 



PERRY'S victory was promptly followed up by 
himself and Harrison. Besides its ultimate in- 
fluence on the general course of events, already 
mentioned, it produced immediate military con- 
sequences, the effect of which was felt throughout the 
lake frontier, from Detroit to Champlain. That success 
elsewhere did not follow was due to other causes than 
remissness on their part to improve the occasion. Al- 
though the " Lawrence " had to be sent back to Erie for 
extensive repairs, and the " Detroit " and " Queen Char- 
lotte " rolled their masts overboard at anchor in Put-in 
Bay on the third day after the battle, Perry within a week 
had his squadron and four of the prizes sufficiently in 
repair to undertake the transport of the army. This timely 
facility, which betrayed the enemy's expectations, was 
due largely to the " Lawrence " having borne the brunt of 
the action. Had the injuries been more distributed, the 
delay of repairs must have been greater. The British Ad- 
jutant General at Niagara, Harvey, the hero of Stoney 
Creek, wrote on hearing of the battle, " After an action of 
three hours and a half, the enemy's vessels must have 
received so much damage as not to be in a situation to 
undertake anything for some time." ^ By September 26 
Harrison had assembled his forces at an island in the lake, 

1 Canadian Archives MSS. 


called Middle Sister, twelve miles from Maiden. On the 
27th they were conveyed to Maiden, partly in vessels and 
partly in boats, the weather being fine. By September 30 
Sandwich and Detroit were occupied ; Procter retreating 
eastward up the valley of the Thames. Harrison pursued, 
and on October 5 overtook the British and Indians at a 
settlement called Moravian Town. Here they made a 
stand and were defeated, with the destruction or dispersal 
of the entire body, in an action known to Americans as 
the battle of the Thames. Procter himself, with some 
two hundred men, fled eastward and reached the lines at 
Burhngton Heights, at the head of Ontario, whither Vin- 
cent had again retreated on October 9, immediately upon 
receiving news of the disaster at ^Moravian Town. 

After this the Western Indians fell wholly away from the 
British alhance, and Harrison returned to Detroit, satisfied 
that it was useless to pursue the enemy by land. The 
season was thought now too far advanced for operations 
against Michilimackinac, which was beheved also to be so 
effectually isolated, by the tenure of Lake Erie, as to pre- 
sent its receiving suppUes. This was a mistake, there 
being a route, practicable though difficult, from Toronto to 
Georgian Bay, on Lake Huron, by which necessary stores 
were hurried through before the winter closed in. Macki- 
nac remained in British hands to the end of the war. 

At Detroit Harrison and Perry received orders to trans- 
port a body of troops down Lake Erie, to re-enforce the 
army on the general scene of operations centring round 
Lake Ontario. By the control of the Niagara peninsula, 
consequent upon Vincent's necessary retreat after the 
battle of the Thames, the American communications were 
complete and secure throughout from Detroit to Sackett's 
Harbor, permitting free movement from end to end. The 
two officers embarked together, taking with them thirteen 
hundred men in seven vessels. October 24 they reached 

104 THE WAR OF 1812 

Buffalo. Harrison went on to Niagara, but Perry was here 
detached from the lake service, and returned to the sea- 
board, leaving Elliott to command on Erie. In acknowl- 
edging the order for Perry's removal, Chauncey regretted 
the granting of his appHcation as a bad precedent ; and fur- 
ther took occasion to remark that when he himself was sent 
to the lakes the only vessel on them owned by the United 
States was the brig " Oneida." " Since then two fleets 
have been created, one of which has covered itself with 
glory ; the other, though less fortunate, has not been less 
industrious." It may be questioned whether the evident 
difference of achievement was to be charged to fortune, or 
to relative quickness to seize opportunity, when offered. 

The successes on Lake Eri© had come very appositely 
for a change recently introduced into the plans of the Gov- 
ernment, and then in process of accomplishment. Since 
the middle of the summer the Secretary of War, Armstrong, 
who at this time guided the military counsels, had become 
disgusted by the fruitlessness of the movements at the west 
end of Ontario, and had reverted to his earlier and sounder 
prepossession in favor of an attack upon either Kingston or 
Montreal. It ha^l now been for some time in contemplation 
to transfer to Sackett's Harbor all the troops -that could be 
spared from Niagara, leaving there only sufficient to hold 
Fort George, with Fort Niagara on the American side, as 
supports to a defensive attitude upon that frontier. As- 
sured command of the lake was essential to the safety and 
rapidity of the concentration at Sackett's, and this led to 
the next meeting of the squadrons. 

General James Wilkinson, an officer advanced in years, 
of extremely poor reputation, personal as well as professional, 
and of broken constitution, had been either selected by, or 
forced upon, ^ the Secretary of War to replace Dearborn in 

1 Scott says, "The selection of this unprincipled imbecile was not the 
blunder of Secretary Armstrong." Memoirs, vol. i. p. 94, note. 


command of the New York frontier and conduct of the 
proposed operations. To his suggested doubts as to the 
direction of effort, whether westward or eastward, Arm- 
strong had replied definitely and finally on August 8: 
" Operations westward of Kingston, if successful, leave the 
strength of the enemy unbroken. It is the great depot of 
his resources. So long as he retains this, and keeps open 
his communication with the sea, he will not want the 
means of multiplying his naval and other defences, and of 
re-enforcing or renewing the war in the West." He then 
explained that there were two ways of reducing the place ; 
by direct attack, or, indirectly, by cutting its communi- 
cations with the lower river. To accomplish the latter, 
a demonstration of direct attack should be made by part of 
the troops, while the main body should move rapidly down 
the St. Lawrence to Madrid (or Hamilton),^ in New York, 
and cross there to the Canadian side, seizing and fortifying 
a bluff on the north bank to control the road and river. 
This done, the rest of the force should march upon Mont- 
real. The army division on Champlain was to co-operate 
by a simultaneous movement and subsequent junction. 
The project, in general outline, had been approved by 
the President. In transmitting it Armstrong wrote to 
Wilkinson, "After this exposition, it is unnecessary to 
add, that, in conducting the present campaign, you wiU 
make Kingston yovLV primary object, and that you will choose 
(as circumstances may warrant), between a direct and 
indirect attack upon that post."^ 

Contemporary and subsequent movements are to be 
regarded in their bearing on this plan. The first object 
was the concentration at Sackett's, for which some three 

1 Both these names are used, confusingly, by Armstrong. Madrid was the 
township, Hamilton a village on the St. Lawrence, fifteen to twenty miles be- 
low the present Ogdensburg. 

2 American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i. p. 464. Armstrongs 

106 T^'HE WAR OF 1812 

thousand troops were to be withdrawn from the Niagara 
frontier. Wilkinson arrived at Sackett's from Washington, 
August 20. Chauncey was then in port, after the gale 
which had driven both him and Yeo down the lake. He 
sailed on the 29th. Wilkinson followed shortly, reaching 
Fort George September 4. On the 5th, Armstrong himself 
came to Sackett's, having established the War Department 
in northern New York for the campaign. On the 10th 
Perry destroyed the British squadron on Lake Erie, open- 
ing the way for Harrison's victorious entry to Upper Canada 
and subsequent transfer to Niagara. 

Some days before the battle of the Thames the embarka- 
tion from Niagara for Sackett's Harbor took place under 
cover of the naval operations. After Yeo had gone into 
Amherst Bay on September 12, as already mentioned,^ 
Chauncey remained cruising in the neighborhood till the 
17th, when he went to Sackett's, the enemy having got into 
Kingston. On the 19th he sailed again for Niagara, to 
support the movement of the army. He arrived on the 
24th, and found there a report of Perry's victory, which 
had been received on the 22d. On the 25th embarkation 
be^an, and Wilkinson hoped that the whole body, three 
thousand strong, would start on their coasting voyage 
along the south shore of the lake on the 27th; but after 
dark, to conceal the direction taken. At this juncture, on 
September 26, Chauncey heard that the British fleet was at 
York, which was confirmed by a lookout vessel despatched 
by him. As Yeo, unless checked, might molest the trans- 
portation of the troops, it became necessary first to seek 
him ; but owing to a head wind the American squadron 
could not leave the river till the evening of the 27th. 

As the schooner gun-vessels sailed badly, the " Pike," 
the " Madison," and the " Sylph " each took one in tow on 
the morning of the 28th, steering for York, where the 

1 Ante, p. 60. 


British fleet was soon after sighted. As the Americans 
stood in, the British quitted tlie bay to gain the open lake ; 
for their better manoeuvring powers as a squadron would 
have scope clear of the land. They formed on the port 
tack, running south mth the wind fresh at east (Posi- 
tions 1). When about three miles distant, to windward, 
Chauncey put his fleet on the same tack as the enemy and 
edged down towards him (Positions 2). At ten minutes 
past noon, the Americans threatening to cut off the rear- 
most two of the British, Yeo tacked his column in succes- 
sion, beginning with his own ship, the leader (a), heading 
north toward his endangered vessels, between them and the 
opponents. When round, he opened fire on the " General 
Pike." As this movement, if continued, would bring the 
leading and strongest British ships upon the weaker Ameri- 
cans astern, Chauncey put his helm up and steered for the 
" Wolfe " (b), as soon as the " General Pike " came abreast 
of her ; the American column following in his wake. The 
*' Wolfe " then kept away, and a sharp encounter followed 
between the two leaders, in which the rest of the squadrons 
took some share (Positions 3). 

At the end of twenty minutes the " Wolfe " lost her main 
and mizzen topmasts, and main yard. With all her after 
sail gone, there was nothing to do but to keep before the 
wind, which was fair for the British posts at the head 
of the bay (Positions 4). The American squadron fol- 
lowed; but the "Madison," the next heaviest ship to the 
"Pike," superior in battery power to the "Wasp" and 
"Hornet" of the ocean navy, and substantially equal to 
the second British ship, the " Royal George," " having a 
heavy schooner in tow, prevented her commander from 
closing near enough to do any execution with her carron- 
ades." 1 The explanation requires explanation, which is not 

1 Chaancey's report, Oct. 1, 1813, Xiles' Register, vol. v. p. 134. The 
extract has been verified from the original in the Captains' Letters. The 

108 THE WAR OF 1812 

forthcoming. Concern at such instants for heavy schooners 
in tow is not the spirit in which battles are won or campaigns 
decided ; and it must be admitted that Commodore Chaun- 
cey's sohcitude to keep his schooners up with his real fight- 
ing vessels, to conform, at critical moments, the action of 
ships of eight hundred and six hundred tons, like the 
" Pike " and " Madison," to those of lake craft of under one 
hundred, is not creditable to his military instincts. He 
threw out a signal, true, for the fleet to make all sail ; but 
as he held on to the schooner he had in tow, neither the 
" Madison " nor " Sylph " dropped hers. His flagship, indi- 
vidually, appears to have been well fought ; but anxiety to 
keep a squadron united needs to be tempered with discre- 
tion of a kind somewhat more eager than the quality 
commonly thus named, and which on occasion can drop a 
schooner, or other small craft, in order to get at the enemy. 
As the dismasted " Wolfe " ran to leeward, " the ' Royal 
George,' " says the American naval historian Cooper, " luffed 
up in noble style across her stern to cover the English 
commodore " (c), and " kept yawing athwart her stern, de- 
livering her broadsides in a manner to extort exclamations 
of delight from the American fleet (Positions 5); She was 
commanded by Captain Mulcaster." Her fighting mate, 
the " Madison," had a heavy schooner in tow. This inter- 
position of the " Royal George " was especially timely if, as 
Yeo states, Chauncey was holding at a distance whence his 
long twenty-fours told, while the "Wolfe's" carronades 
did not reach. 

At quarter before three Chauncey relinquished pursuit. 
Both squadrons were then about six miles from the head 

report of Sir James Yeo (British Records Office) agrees substantially with 
Chauncey's accounts of the movements, but adds that upon the fall of the 
" Wolfe's " topmasts the " Pike " immediately took a distance out of carronade 
range, whence her long 24's would tell. " I can assure you, Sir, that the 
great advantage the enemy have over us from their long 24-pounders almost 
precludes the possibility of success, unless we can force them to close action, 
which they have ever avoided with the most studied circumspection." 



















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of the lake, running towards it before a wind which had in- 
creased to a gale, with a heavy sea. Ahead of them was a 
lee shore, and for the Americans a hostile coast. " Though 
we might succeed in driving him on shore, the probability 
was we should go on shore also, he amongst his friends, we 
amongst our enemies ; and after the gale abated, if he 
could get off one or two vessels out of the two fleets, 
it would give him as completely the command of the 
lake as if he had twenty vessels. Moreover, he was 
covered at his anchorage by part of his army and several 
small batteries thrown up for the purpose." For these 
reasons, the commodore " without hesitation relinquished 
the opportunity then presenting itself of acquiring indi- 
vidual reputation at the expense of my countr}\" The 
British squadron anchored without driving ashore. The 
American returned to Niagara, having received a certain 
amount of damage aloft, and one of the purchased schoon- 
ers having lost her foremast ; but the killed and wounded 
by the enemy amounted to only five, all on board the 
*' General Pike." That vessel lost also twenty-two men 
by the bursting of a gun. 

Chauncey had been in consultation with Armstrong 
at Sackett's, and understood perfectly the plans of the 
Government. On his return to Niagara he was requested 
by Wilkinson to keep watch over the hostile squadron 
in its present position under Burlington Heights, so as 
to cover the eastward movement of the troops, which 
began October 1. On the 2d the last transport had 
gone, and Wilkinson himself set out for Sackett's ; bringing, 
as he reported, thirty-five hundred men. On the 3d the 
British fleet was seen well towards the west end of the 
lake ; but on the 4th a vessel sent especially to reconnoitre 
came back with the report that it was no longer there. 
This proved to be a mistake; but, as it came from a 
careful and competent officer, Chauncey inferred that the 

110 THE WAR OF 1812 

enemy had given him the slip and gone to the eastward. 
He therefore ran down the lake, to cover the arrival of 
the troops as he had their departure. On the afternoon of 
the 5th, near Kingston, he captured six out of seven trans- 
ports bound thither with re-enforcements. Of these, two 
were the schooners taken by Yeo in the engagement of 
August 10, which the British had not thought fit to add 
to their fleet, but used simply as carriers ; mounting their 
guns on the fortifications of Kingston. Cooper justly 
remarks, " This sufficiently proves the equivocal ad- 
vantage enjoyed by the possession of these craft." 
Chauncey himself, at the end of the campaign, recom- 
mended the building of " one vessel of the size of the 
'Sylph,'" — three hundred and forty tons, — "in lieu of 
all the heavy schooners ; for really they are of no manner 
of service, except to carry troops or use as gunboats." ^ 
The reflection is inevitable, — Why, then, had he allowed 
them so to hamper his movements ? It is to be feared that 
the long ascendency of the gunboat policy in the councils 
of the Government had sapped the professional intelligence 
even of some naval officers. 

The capture of the detachment going from York to 
Kingston showed that the British had divined the general 
character of the American plans. In fact, as early as Octo- 
ber 2, Major General de Rottenburg, who after an interval 
had succeeded to Brock's place in Upper Canada, as lieu- 
tenant governor and commander of the forces, had started 
with two regiments to re-enforce Kingston, leaving the 
Niagara peninsula again under the command of General 
Vincent. On October 6 Chauncey's squadron entered 
Sackett's, where Wilkinson had arrived on the 4th. The 
general began at once to remonstrate strenuously with 
Armstrong against an attempt upon Kingston, as delaying 
and possibly frustrating what he saw fit to style the chief 
1 Chauncey to Navy Department, Dec. 17, 1813. Captains' Letters. 


object of the campaign, the capture of Montreal The Secre- 
tary listened patiently, but overruled him.i Kingston had 
been the principal object from the beginning, and still so con- 
tinued ; but, if the garrison should be largely re-enforced, 
if the British fleet should enter the harbor, or if the weather 
should make navigation of the lake dangerous for the trans- 
ports, then the troops should proceed direct for Montreal 
by the river. Yeo apparently returned to Kingston soon 
after this ; but when Chauncey left port on October 16, to 
brinor forward from the Genesee River a detachment under 
Colonel Winfield Scott, he still had the understanding that 
Kingston was first to be attacked. 

On October 19, however, the Secretary reconsidered his 
decision. The concentration of the army at Sackett's had 
not been effected until the 18th. On the 16th de Rotten- 
burg, having coasted the north shore of the lake, reached 
Kingston with his two regiments, reckoned by Armstrong 
at fifteen hundred men. These raised to twenty-two hun- 
dred the garrison previously estimated at seven to eight 
hundred.^ The numbers of the Americans were diminish- 
ing by sickness, and no further re-enforcement was to be 
expected, excepting by uniting with the Champlain divi- 
sion. This had been on the move from Plattsburg since 
September 19, and was now at Chateaugay, on the Chateau- 
gay River ; a local centre, whence roads running northeast, 
to the river's junction with the St. Lawrence, immediately 
opposite the island of Montreal, and west to St. Regis on 
the St. Lawrence, forty miles higher up, gave facilities 
for moving in either direction to meet Wilkinson's advance. 
By a letter of October 12 from its commander. General 
Wade Hampton, this corps numbered " four thousand effect- 
ive infantry, with a well-appointed train." To bring it by 

1 Armstrong, Oct. 5, 1813. American State Papers, Military Affairs, 
vol. i. p. 470. 
s Ibid., p. 471. 

112 THE WAR OF 1812 

land to Sackett's, over a hundred miles distant, was con- 
sidered too protracted and laborious in the state of the 
roads ; better utilize the current of the St. Lawrence to 
carry Wilkinson down to it. In view of these circum- 
stances, and of the supposed increased strength of Kingston, 
Armstrong decided to abandon the attack upon the latter and 
to move against Montreal, which was believed to be much 
weaker, as well as strategically more important.^ The 
movement was hazardous ; for, as planned, ultimate success 
depended upon junction with another corps, which had 
natural difficulties of its own to contend with, while both 
were open to obstruction by an active enemy. As a dis- 
tinguished military critic has said, " The Americans com- 
mitted upon this occasion the same error that the British 
Government did in their plan for Burgoyne's march from 
the head of Champlain to Albany, — that of making the 
desired result of an important operation depend upon the 
success of all its constituent or component parts." It is 
one of the most common of blunders in war. Wilkinson 
and Hampton did not meet. Both moved, but one had 
retreated before the other arrived. 

In fact, while Montreal, as the most important point in 
Canada for the British, except Quebec, and at the same time 
the one most accessible to the United States, was the true 
objective of the latter, concentration against it should have 
been made in territory entirely under American control, 
about Lake Champlain, and the advance begun early in the 
season. By its own choice the Government had relin- 
quished this obvious and natural course, and throughout 
the summer had directed its efforts to the westward. When 
the change of operations from Niagara to the lower end 
of the lake was initiated, in the beginning of October, it 
was already too late to do more than attack Kingston, the 

1 Armstrong, Oct. 20, 1813. American State Papers, Military Affairs, 
vol. i. p. 473. 


strength of which appears to have been gravely overesti- 
mated. Armstrong had good military ideas; but at this 
critical moment he seems to have faltered in the presence 
of an immediate diflBculty, and to have sought escape from 
it by a hasty consent to a side measure, contrary to the 
soundest teachings of war. 

Not the least of objections was the risk to which Sackett's 
Harbor, the naval base, was to be exposed. After October 
16, Chauncey had remained cruising between there and 
Kingston, covering the approaches to the St. Lawrence. 
His intended trip to Genesee, to bring up Scott's eight 
hundred regulars, had been abandoned at the urgent de- 
mand of AYilkinson, who, while the troops were being 
transferred from Sackett's to Grenadier Island, at the outlet 
of the lake to the river, " would not allow any part of the 
fleet to be absent four days without throwing the responsi- 
bility, in case of a failure of his expedition, wholly on the 
navy." ^ The commodore did not learn of the new scheme 
until October 30, ten days after its adoption, when he was 
asked to cover the rear of the army from pureuit by water, 
by taking position inside the St. Lawrence. While object- 
ing strongly to the change of plan, he of course consented 
to afford all the co-operation in his power ; but he wrote to 
the Navy Department, " If Sir James Yeo knows the de- 
fenceless situation of Sackett's, he can take advantage of a 
westerly wind while I am in the river, run over and bum 
it ; for to the best of my knowledge there are no troops left 
there except sick and invalids, nor are there more than three 
^ns mounted." ^ 

After many delays by rough water, Wilkinson's troops 
were assembled at Grenadier Island towards the end of 

1 Scott's Memoirs, vol. i. p. 106. In consequence, though Scott personally 
succeeded in joining the movement from which so much was expected, this 
considerable number of regulars were withdrawn from it. They ultimately 
reached Sackett's, forming the nucleus of a garrison. 

2 Captains' Letters, Oct. 30, 1813. 

114 THE WAR OF 1812 

October. On November 1 they began entering the river 
by detachments, collecting at French Creek, on the Amer- 
ican side, fifteen miles from the lake. Being here imme- 
diately opposite one of the points considered suitable for 
advance on Kingston, the object of the movement remained 
still doubtful to the enemy. The detachments first arriving 
were cannonaded by four of Yeo's vessels that had come 
through the channel north of Long Island, which here 
divides the stream. On November 2 Chauncey anchored 
near b}^, preventing the recurrence of this annoyance. On 
the 4th the entire force was assembled, and next day started 
down the river with fine weather, which lasted until the 
11th. Up to this date no serious difficulty was encoun- 
tered; but immediately that the departure from French 
Creek proclaimed the real direction of the movement, de 
Rottenburg despatched a body of six hundred regular 
troops, under Lieutenant Colonel Morrison, accompanied 
by some gunboats under Captain Mulcaster, to harass the 
rear. For the purpose of being on hand to fall upon the 
American flotilla, should the attempt be made to cross the 
river to the north bank, Sir James Yeo on the 5 th came out 
from Kingston with his fleet. He anchored on the north 
side of Long Island, only five miles from the American 
squadron, but separated by a reef, over which the " General 
Pike " could not pass without being lightened.^ Steps were 
taken to effect this, and to buoy a channel ; but on the 6th 
Yeo retired to Kingston. Chauncey 's letters make no men- 
tion of Mulcaster's division, and after Yeo's withdrawal he 
moved down to Carleton Island. 

Morrison and Mulcaster on the 8th reached Fort Wel- 
lington, opposite Ogdensburg. Here they paused and 
received re-enforcements from the garrison, raising their 
numbers to eight hundred, who continued to follow, by 
water and by land, until the 11th. Then they were turned 

1 Chauncey to the Navy Department, Nov. 11, 1813. Captains' Letters. 


upon by the rearguard of an American division, marching 
on the north bank to suppress the harassment to which the 
flotilla otherwise was liable in its advance. An action fol- 
lowed, known as that of Chrystler's Farm, in which the 
Americans were the assailants and in much superior num- 
bers ; but they were worsted and driven back, having lost 
one hundred and two killed and two hundred and thirty- 
seven wounded, besides one hundred prisoners. Tlie troops 
engaged then embarked, and passed down the Long Saut 
Rapids to Cornwall, which is one hundred and twenty 
miles from Kingston and eighty-two from Montreal. Here 
they were rejoined on the 12th by the vanguard of the 
division, which had met little resistance in its progress. 
At this time and place Wilkinson received a letter from 
General Hampton, to whom he had written that the pro- 
visions of his army were insufficient, and requested him to 
send " two or three months' supply by the safest route in a 
direction to the proposed scene of action." ^ He also in- 
structed him to join the advance at St, Regis, opposite 
Cornwall, the point which had now been reached. As the 
two bodies were co-operating, and Wilkinson was senior, 
these instractions had the force of orders. In his reply, 
dated November 8,^ Hampton said, " The idea of meeting 
at St. Regis was most pleasing, until I came to the dis- 
closure of the amount of your supplies of provision." 
Actually, the disclosure about the supplies preceded in 
the letter the appointment to meet at St. Regis, which 
was the last subject mentioned. " It would be impossible," 
Hampton continued, " for me to bring more than each man 
could carry on his back; and when I reflected that, in 
throwing myself upon your scanty means, I should be 
weakening you in your most vulnerable point, I did not 

' "Wilkinson to Hampton. American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i, 
p. 462. 
2 Ibid. 

116 , THE WAR OF 1812 

hesitate to adopt the opinion that by throwing myself back 
upon my main depot [Plattsburg], where all means of 
transportation had gone, and falling upon the enemy's 
flank, and straining every effort to open a communication 
from Plattsburg to . . . the St. Lawrence, I should more 
effectually contribute to your success than by the junction 
at St. Regis." 

Hampton then retired to Plattsburg, in the direction op- 
posite from St. Regis. Wilkinson, upon receiving his letter, 
held a council of war and decided that " the attack on 
Montreal should be abandoned for the present season." 
The army accordingly crossed to the American side and 
went into winter quarters at French Mills, just within the 
New York boundary ; on the Salmon River, which enters 
the St. Lawrence thirteen miles below St. Regis. Wilkin- 
son was writing from there November 17, twelve days after 
he started from French Creek to capture Montreal. Thus 
two divisions, of eight thousand and four thousand respec- 
tively, both fell back helplessly, when within a few days 
of a junction which the enemy could not have prevented, 
even though he might successfully have opposed their joint 
attack upon Montreal. 

It is a delicate matter to judge the discretion of a gen- 
eral officer in Hampton's position ; but the fact remains, as 
to provisions, that he was in a country where, by his own 
statement of a month before, " we have, and can have, an 
unlimited supply of good beef cattle." ^ A British commis- 
sary at Prescott wrote two months later, January 5, 1814, 
" Our supplies for sixteen hundred men are all drawn from 
the American side of the river. They drive droves of cattle 
from the interior under pretence of supplying their army at 
Salmon River, and so are allowed to pass the guards, and 
at night to cross them over to our side," — the river being 

1 Hampton's Letters daring this movement are in American State Papers, 
Military Affairs, vol. i. pp. 458-463. 


frozen. He adds, " I shall be also under the necessity of 
getting most of my flour from their side." ^ It is not 
necessary greatly to respect Wilkinson in order to think 
that in such a region Hampton might safely have waited 
for his superior to join, and to decide upon the movements 
of the whole. He was acting conjointly, and the junior. ^ 
Under all the circumstances there can be no reasonable 
doubt that his independent action was precipitate, unneces- 
sary, contrary to orders, and therefore militarily culpable. 
It gave Wilkinson the excuse, probably much desired, for 
abruptly closing a campaign which had' been ludicrously 
inefficient from the first, and under his leadership might 
well have ended in a manner even more mortifying. 

Chauncey remained within the St. Lawrence until No- 
vember 10, the day before the engagement at Chrystler's 
Farm. He was troubled with fears as to what might hap- 
pen in his rear ; the defenceless condition of Sackett's, and 
the possibility that the enemy by taking possession of 
Carleton Island, below him, might prevent the squadron's 
getting out.^ None of these things occurred, and it would 
seem that the British had not force to attempt them. On 
the 11th the squadron returned to the Harbor, where was 
found a letter from Armstrong, requesting conveyance to 
Sackett's for the brigade of Harrison's army, which Perry 
had brought to Niagara, and which the Secretary destined 
to replace the garrison gone down stream with Wilkinson. 
The execution of this service closed the naval operations 
on Ontario for the year 1813. On November 21 Chauncev 
wrote that he had transported Harrison with eleven hun- 
dred troops. On the night of December 2 the harbor 
froze over, and a few days later the commodore learned 
that Yeo had laid up his ships for the winter. 

1 Ridout, Ten Years in Upper Canada, p. 269. 

2 American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i. p. 465. 

3 Chauncey to Navy Department, Nov. 11. Captains' Letters. 

118 THE WAR OF 1812 

There remains yet to tell the close of the campaign upon 
the Niagara peninsula, control of which had been a leading 
motive in the opening operations. Its disastrous ending 
supplies a vivid illustration of the military truth that posi- 
tions are in themselves of but little value, if the organized 
forces of the enemy, armies or fleets, remain unimpaired. 
The regular troops were all withdrawn for Wilkinson's ex- 
pedition ; the last to go being the garrison of Fort George, 
eight hundred men under Colonel Winfield Scott, which left 
on October 13. The command of the frontier was turned 
over to Brigadier General George M'Clure of the New York 
Militia. Scott reported that Fort George, "as a field 
work, might be considered as complete at that period. It 
was garnished with ten pieces of artillery, which number 
might have been increased from the spare ordnance of the 
opposite fort " ^ — Niagara. The latter, on the American 
side, was garrisoned by two companies of regular artillery 
and " such of M'Clure's brigade as had refused to cross 
the river." 

It was immediately before Scott's departure that the 
British forces under General Vincent, upon receipt of news 
of the battle of the Thames, had retreated precipitately to 
Burlington Heights, burning all their stores, and abandon- 
ing the rest of the peninsula. This was on October 9 ; 
a week after de Rottenburg had started for Kingston with 
two regiments, leaving only ten or twelve hundred regu- 
lars. De Rottenburg sent word for these also to retire 
upon York, and thence to Kingston ; but the lateness of 
the season, the condition of the roads, and the necessity 
in such action to abandon sick and stores, decided Vincent, 
in the exercise of his discretion, to hold on. This reso- 
lution was as fortunate for his side as it proved unfortunate 
to the Americans. M'Clure's force, as stated by himself, 
was then about one thousand effective militia in Fort 

1 American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i. p. 483. 


George, and two hundred and fifty Indians. ConceiTiing 
the latter he wrote, " An exhibition of two or three hun- 
dred of them will strike more terror into the British than 
a thousand militia." ^ From time to time there were also 
bodies of "volunteers," who assembled on call and were 
subject to the orders of the national government for the 
period of their service. With such numbers, so consti- 
tuted, it was as impossible for M'Clure to trouble Vincent 
as it was inexpedient for Vincent to attack Fort George. 

A gleam of hope appeared for the American commander 
when Perry brought down the thirteen hundred of Harri- 
son's victorious army, with the general himself. The 
latter, who was senior to M'Clure, lent a favorable ear 
to his suggestion that the two forces should be combined 
to attack Vincent's lines. Some four hundred additional 
volunteers gathered for this purpose ; but, before the pro- 
ject could take effect, Chauncey arrived to carry Harrison's 
men to Sackett's, stripped of troops for Wilkinson's expe- 
dition. The urgency was real, and Chauncey pressing, on 
account both of Sackett's and the season. In reply to a 
very aggrieved remonstrance from M'Clure, Harrison ex- 
pressed extreme sympathy with his disappointment and 
that of the volunteers, but said no material disadvantage 
was incurred, for he was convinced the British were re- 
moving as fast as they could from the head of the lake, 
and that an expedition thither would find them gone. 
Therewith, on November 16, he embarked and sailed. 

The period of service for which the militia were 
"draughted" would expire December 9. To M'Clure's 
representations the national government, which was re- 
sponsible for the general defence, replied impotently by 
renewing its draught on the state government for another 
thousand militia. But, wrote Armstrong, if you cannot 
raise volunteers, " what are you to expect from militia 

1 American State Papers, Military Affairs, yoL i. p. 484. 

120 THE WAR OF 1812 

draughts, with their constitutional scruples ? " — about 
leaving their state. Armstrong was not personally re- 
sponsible for the lack of organized power in the nation; 
but as the representative of the Government, which by 
a dozen years of inefficiency and neglect had laid open 
this and other frontiers, the fling was unbecoming. On 
December 10, the garrison of Fort George was reduced to 
"sixty effective regulars and probably forty volunteers. 
The militia have recrossed the river almost to a man."^ 
M'Clure also learned " that the enemy were advancing in 
force." That night he abandoned the works, retiring to 
Fort Niagara, and carrying off such stores as he could; 
but in addition he committed the grave error of setting fire 
to the adjacent Canadian village of Newark, which was 
burned to the ground. 

For this step M'Clure alleged the authority of the Secre- 
tary of War, who on October 4 had written him, " Under- 
standing that the defence of the post committed to your 
charge may render it proper to destroy the town of New- 
ark, you are directed to apprise its inhabitants of this 
circumstance, and to invite them to remove themselves and 
their effects to some place of greater safety." The general 
construed this to justify destruction in order to deprive 
the hostile troops of shelter near Fort George. " The 
enemy are now completely shut out from any hopes or 
means of wintering in the vicinity of Fort George." The 
exigency was insufficient to justify the measure, which 
was promptly disavowed by the United States Government ; 
but the act imparted additional bitterness to the war, and 
was taken by the enemy as a justification and incentive to 
the retaliatory violence with which the campaign closed. 

The civil and military government of Upper Canada at 
this time passed into the hands of Sir Gordon Drum- 
mond. For the moment he sent to Niagara General Riall, 

1 American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i. p. 486. 


who took over the command from Vincent. On December 
13, M'Clure reported the enemy appearing in force on the 
opposite shore ; but, " having deprived them of shelter, 
they are marching np to Queenston." This alone showed 
the futility of burning Newark, but more decisive demon- 
stration was to be given. Early on the 19th the British 
and Indians crossed the river before da%vn, surprised Fort 
Niagara, and carried it at the point of the bayonet ; meet- 
ing, indeed, but weak and disorganized resistance. At the 
same time a detachment of militia at Lewiston was attacked 
and driven in, and that village, with its neighbors. Youngs- 
town and Manchester, were reduced to ashes, in revenge 
for Newark. On December 30 the British again crossed, 
burned Buffalo, and destroyed at Black Rock three small 
vessels of the Erie flotilla ; two of which, the " Ariel " and 
" Trippe," had been in Perry's squadron on September 10, 
while the third, the " Little Belt," was a prize taken in 
that action. Two thousand militia had been officially re- 
ported assembled on the frontier on December 26, sum- 
moned after the first alarm ; but, " overpowered by the 
numbers and discipline of the enemy," wrote their com- 
mander, " they gave way and fled on every side. Every 
attempt to rally them was ineffectual." ^ 

With this may be said to have terminated the northern 
campaign of 1813. The British had regained full control 
of the Niagara peninsula, and they continued to hold Fort 
Niagara, in the state of New York, till peace was concluded. 
The only substantial gain on the whole frontier, from the 
extreme east to the extreme west, was the destruction of 
the British fleet on Lake Erie, and the consequent transfer 
of power in the west to the United States. This was the 
left flank of the American position. Had the same result 
been accomplished on the right flank, — as it might have 
been, — at Montreal, or even at Kingston, the centre and 

* Report of General A. Hall, Niles' Register, vol. v. p. 394. 

122 THE WAR OF 1812 

left must have fallen also. For the misdirection of effort 
to Niagara, the local commanders, Dearborn and Chaun- 
cey, are primarily responsible ; for Armstrong yielded his 
own correct perceptions to the representations of the first 
as to the enemy's force, supported by the arguments of 
the naval officer favoring the diversion of effort from 
Kingston to Toronto. Whether Chauncey ever formally 
admitted to himself this fundamental mistake, which 
wrecked the summer's work upon Lake Ontario, does 
not appear; but that he had learned from experience is 
shown by a letter to the Secretary of the Navy,^ when the 
squadrons had been laid up. In this he recognized the 
uselessness of the heavy sailing schooners when once a 
cruising force of ships for war had been created, thereby 
condemning much of his individual management of the 
campaign; and he added: "If it is determined to pros- 
ecute the war offensively, and secure our conquests in 
Upper Canada, Kingston ought unquestionably to be the 
first object of attack, and that so early in the spring as to 
prevent the enemy from using the whole of the naval force 
that he is preparing." 

In the three chapters which here end, the Ontario 
operations have been narrated consecutively and at length, 
without interruption by other issues, — except the immedi- 
ately related Lake Erie campaign, — because upon them 
turned, and upon them by the dispositions of the Govern- 
ment this year were wrecked the fortunes of the war. 
The year 1813, from the opening of the spring to the clos- 
ing in of winter, was for several reasons the period when 
conditions were most propitious to the American cause. 
In 1812 war was not begun until June, and then with 
little antecedent preparation; and it was waged half- 
heartedly, both governments desiring to nip hostilities. 
In 1814, on the other hand, when the season opened, 

1 December 17, 1813. Captains' Letters, Navy Department. 


Napoleon had fallen, and the United States no longer had 
an informal ally to divert the efforts of Great Britain. 
But in the intervening year, 1813, although the pressure 
upon the seaboard, the defensive frontier, was undoubtedly 
greater than before, and much vexation and harassment 
was inflicted, no serious injury was done beyond the sup- 
pression of commerce, inevitable in any event. In the 
north, on the lakes frontier, the offensive and the initiative 
continued in the hands of the United States. No substan- 
tial re-enforcements reached Canada until long after the 
ice broke up, and then in insufficient numbers. British 
naval preparations had been on an inadequate scale, receiv- 
ing no proper professional supervision. The American 
Government, on the contrary, had had the whole winter to 
prepare, and the services of a very competent naval organ- 
izer. It had also the same period to get ready its land 
forces ; while incompetent Secretaries of War and of the 
Navy gave place in January to capable men in both 

With all this in its favor, and despite certain gratifying 
successes, the general outcome was a complete failure, the 
fuU measure of which could be realized only when the 
downfall of Napoleon revealed what disaster may result 
from neglect to seize opportunity while it exists. The 
tide then ebbed, and never again flowed. For this many 
causes may be alleged. The imbecile ideas concerning 
military and naval preparation which had prevailed since 
the opening of the century doubtless counted for much. 
The intrusting of chief command to broken-down men like 
Dearborn and Wilkinson was enough to ruin the best con- 
ceived schemes. But, despite these very serious drawbacks, 
the strategic misdirection of effort was the most fatal cause 
of failure. 

There is a simple but very fruitful remark of a Swiss 
military writer, that every military line may be conceived 

124 THE WAR OF 1812 

as having three parts, the middle and the two ends, or 
flanks. As sound principle requires that military effort 
should not be distributed along the whole of an enemy's posi- 
tion, — unless in the unusual case of overwhelming superi- 
ority, — but that distinctly superior numbers should be 
concentrated upon a limited portion of it, this idea of a three- 
fold division aids materially in considering any given situa- 
tion. One third, or two thirds, of an enemy's line may be 
assailed, but very seldom the whole ; and everything may 
depend upon the choice made for attack. Now the British 
frontier, which the United States was to assail, extended 
from Montreal on the east to Detroit on the west. Its 
three parts were: Montreal and the St. Lawrence on the 
east, or left flank; Ontario in the middle, centring at 
Kingston; and Erie on the right; the strength of the 
British position in the last named section being at Detroit 
and Maiden, because they commanded the straits upon 
which the Indian tribes depended for access to the east. 
Over against the British positions named lay those of the 
United States. Given in the same order, these were : Lake 
Champlain, and the shores of Ontario and of Erie, centring 
respectively in the naval stations at Sackett's Harbor and 
Presqu' Isle. 

Accepting these definitions, which are too obvious to 
admit of dispute, what considerations should have dictated 
to the United States the direction of attack; the one, or 
two, parts out of the three, on which effort should be con- 
centrated? The reply, as a matter of abstract, accepted, 
military principle, is certain. Unless very urgent reasons 
to the contrary exist, strike at one end rather than at the 
middle, because both ends can come up to help the middle 
against you quicker than one end can get to help the other ; 
and, as between the two ends, strike at the one upon which 
the enemy most depends for re-enforcements and supplies to 
maintain his strength. Sometimes this decision presents 


difficulties. Before Waterloo, "Wellington had his ovm. 
army as a centre of interest; on his right flank the sea, 
whence came supplies and re-enforcements from England ; 
on his left the Prussian army, support by which was 
imminently necessary. On which flank would Napoleon 
throw the weight of his attack? Wellington reasoned, 
perhaps through national bias, intensified by years of 
official dependence upon sea support, that the blow wOuld 
fall upon his right, and he strengthened it with a body of 
men sorely needed when the enemy came upon his left, in 
overwhelming numbers, seeking to separate him from the 

No such doubt was possible as to Canada in 1813. It 
depended wholly upon the sea, and it touched the sea at 
Montreal. The United States, with its combined naval 
and military strength, crude as the latter was, was at the 
beginning of 1813 quite able in material power to grapple 
two out of the three parts, — ^Montreal and Kingston. Had 
they been gained. Lake Erie would have fallen ; as is demon- 
strated by the fact that the whole Erie region went down Hke 
a house of cards the moment Peny triumphed on the lake. 
His victory was decisive, simply because it destroyed the 
communications of Maiden with the sea. The same result 
would have been achieved, with effect over a far wider 
region, by a similar success in the east. 


UPON the Canada frontier the conditions of 1813 
had permitted the United States an ample field 
for offensive operations, with good prospect of 
success. What use was made of the opportu- 
nity has now been narrated. Upon the seaboard, continu- 
ous illustration was afforded that there the country was 
widely open to attack, thrown wholly on the defensive, 
with the exception of preying upon the enemy's commerce 
by numerous small cruisers. As a secondary operation of 
war this has always possessed value, and better use of it 
perhaps never was made than by the American people at 
this time ; but it is not determinative of great issues, and 
the achievements of the public and private armed vessels 
of the United States, energetic and successful as they were 
at this period, constituted no exception to the universal 
experience. Control of the highways of the ocean by 
great fleets destroys an enemy's commerce, root and branch. 
The depredations of scattered cruisers may inflict immense 
vexation, and even embarrassment ; but they neither kill nor 
mortally wound, they merely harass. Co-operating with 
other influences, they may induce yielding in a maritime 
enemy ; but singly they never have done so, and probably 
never can. In 1814 no commerce was left to the United 
States; and that conditions remained somewhat better 
during 1813 was due to collusion of the enemy, not to 
national power. 

The needs of the British armies in the Spanish Peninsula 
and in Canada, and the exigencies of the West India colo- 


nies, induced the enemy to wink at, and even to uphold, 
a considerable clandestine export trade from the United 
States. Combined with this was the hope of embarrassing 
the general government by the disaffection of New England, 
and of possibly detaching that section of the country from 
the Union. For these reasons, the eastern coast was not 
included in the commercial blockade in 1813. But no 
motive existed for permitting the egress of armed vessels, 
or the continuance of the coasting ti'ade, by which always, 
now as then, much of the intercourse between different 
parts of the country must be maintained, and upon which 
in 1812 it depended almost altogether. With the approach 
of spring in 1813, therefore, not only was the commercial 
blockade extended to embrace New York and all south of 
it, together with the Mississippi River, but the naval con- 
striction upon the shore line became so severe as practically 
to annihilate the coasting trade, considered as a means 
of commercial exchange. It is not possible for deep-sea 
cruisers wholly to suppress the movement of small vessels, 
skirting the beaches from headland to headland ; but their 
operations can be so much embarrassed as to reduce their 
usefulness to a bare alleviation of social necessities, inade- 
quate to any scale of interchange deserving the name of 

" I doubt not,' ' wrote Captain Broke, when challenging 
Lawrence to a ship duel, "that you will feel convinced 
that it is only by repeated triumphs in even combat that 
your httle navy can now hope to console your country 
for the loss of that trade it cannot protect." ^ The taunt, 
doubtless intended to further the object of the letter by 
the provocation involved, was appHcable as well to coast- 
ing as to deep-sea commerce. It ignored, however, the 
consideration, necessarily predominant with American offi- 

1 Broke's Letter to Lawrence, Jane, 1813. Naval Chronicle, vol. xxx. 
p. 413. 

128 THE WAR OF 1812 

cers, that the conditions of the war imposed commerce 
destruction as the principal mission of their navy. They 
were not indeed to shun combat, when it offered as an in- 
cident, but neither were they to seek it as a mere means of 
glory, irrespective of advantage to be gained. Lawrence, 
whom Broke's letter did not reach, was perhaps not suf- 
ficiently attentive to this motive. 

The British blockade, military and commercial, the 
coastwise operations of their navy, and the careers of 
American cruisers directed to the destruction of British 
commerce, are then the three heads under which the ocean 
activities of 1813 divide. Although this chapter is devoted 
to the first two of these subjects, brief mention should be 
made here of the distant cruises of two American ves- 
sels, because, while detached from any connection with 
other events, they are closely linked, in time and place, with 
the disastrous seaboard engagement between the " Chesa- 
peake " and " Shannon," with which the account of sea- 
coast maritime operations opens. On April 30 Captain 
John Rodgers put to ssa from Boston in the frigate " Presi- 
dent," accompanied by the frigate " Congress," Captain 
John Smith. Head winds immediately after sailing de- 
tained them inside of Cape Cod until May 3, and it was 
not till near George's Bank that any of the blockading 
squadron was seen. As, by the Admiralty's instructions, 
one of the blockaders was usually a ship of the line, the 
American vessels very properly evaded them. The two 
continued together until May 8, when they separated, 
some six hundred miles east of Delaware Bay. Rodgers 
kept along northward to the Banks of Newfoundland, 
hoping, at that junction of commercial highways, to 
fall in with a West India convoy, or vessels bound into 
Halifax or the St. Lawrence. Nothing, however, was seen, 
and he thence steered to the Azores with equal bad fortune. 
Obtaining thereabouts information of a homeward-bound 


convoy from the West Indies, he went in pursuit to the 
northeast, but failed to find it. Not till June 9 did he 
make three captures, in quick succession. Being then 
two thirds of the way to the English Channel, he deter- 
mined to try the North Sea, shaping his course to intercept 
vessels bound either by the north or south of Ireland. 
Not a sail was met until the Shetland Islands were reached, 
and there were found only Danes, which, though Denmark 
was in hostility with Great Britain, were trading under 
British licenses. The " President " remained in the North 
Sea until the end of July, but made only two prizes, 
although she lay in wait for convoys of whose sailing 
accounts were received. Having renewed her supply of 
water at Bergen, in Norway, she returned to the Atlantic, 
made three captures off the north coast of Ireland, and 
thence beat back to the Banks, where two stray homeward- 
bound West Indiamen were at last caught. From there 
the sliip made her way, still with a constant head wind, to 
Nantucket, off which was captured a British man-of-war 
schooner, tender to the admiral. On September 2T she 
anchored in Narragansett Bay, having been absent almost 
five months, and made twelve prizes, few of which were 
valuable. One, however, was a mail packet to Halifax, 
the capture of which, as of its predecessors, was noted by 

The " Congress " was stiU less successful in material re- 
sult. She followed a course which had hitherto been a 
favorite with American captains, and which Rodgers had 
suggested as alternative to his own; southeast, passing near 
the Cape Verde Islands, to the equator between longitudes 
24° and 31° west ; thence to the coast of Brazil, and so 
home, by a route which carried her well clear of the West 
India Islands. She entered Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 
December 14, having spent seven months making this wide 

^ Rodgers' Report of this cruise is in Captains' Letters, Sept 27, 1813. 

VOL. II. — 9 

130 THE WAR OF 1812 

sweep; in the course of which three prizes only were 
taken.^ It will be remembered that the " Chesapeake," 
which had returned only a month before the " Congress " 
sailed, had taken much the same direction with similar 
slight result. 

These cruises were primarily commerce-destroying, and 
were pursued in that spirit, although with the full purpose 
of fighting should occasion arise. The paucity of result is 
doubtless to be attributed to the prey being sought chiefly 
on the high seas, too far away from the points of arrival 
and departure. The convoy system, rigidly enforced, as 
captured British correspondence shows, cleared the seas of 
British vessels, except in the spots where they were found 
congested, concentrated, by the operation of the system it- 
self. It may be noted that the experience of all these vessels 
showed that nowhere was the system so rigidly operative 
as in the West Indies and Western Atlantic. Doubtless, 
too, the naval officers in command took pains to guide the 
droves of vessels entrusted to them over unusual courses, 
with a view to elude pursuers. As the home port was 
neared, the common disposition to relax tension of effort 
as the moment of relief draws nigh, co-operated with the 
gradual drawing together of convoys from all parts of the 
world to make the approaches to the English Channel 
the most probable scene of success for the pursuer. There 
the greatest number were to be found, and there presump- 
tion of safety tended to decrease carefulness. This was to 
be amply proved by subsequent experience. It had been 
predicted by Rodgers himself, although he apparently did 
not think wise to hazard in such close quarters so fine and 
large a frigate as the " President." " It is very generally 
beheved," he had written, "that the coasts of England, 
Ireland, and Scotland are always swarming with British 
men of war, and that their commerce would be found 

1 Captains' Letters, Dec. 14, 1813. 


amply protected. This, however, I well know by experi- 
ence, in my voyages when a youth, to be incorrect ; and 
that it has always been their policy to keep their enemies 
as far distant from their shores as possible, by stationing 
their ships at the commencement of a war on the enemy's 
coasts, and in such other distant situations, . . . and 
thereby be enabled to protect their own commerce in a 
twofold degree. This, however, they have been enabled 
to do, o^^ng as well to the inactivity of the enemy, as to 
the local advantages derived from their relative situations." ^ 

The same tendency was observable at other points of 
arrival, and recognition of this dictated the instructions 
issued to Captain Lawrence for the cruise of the " Chesa- 
peake," frustated through her capture by the " Shannon." 
Lawrence was appointed to the ship on May 6 ; the saihng 
orders issued to Captain Evans being transferred to him 
on that date. He was to go to the mouth of the Gulf of 
St. Lawrence, seeking there to intercept the military- store- 
ships, and transports with troops, destined to Quebec and 
Upper Canada, " The enemy," wrote the Secretary, " will 
not in all probability anticipate our taking this ground with 
our public ships of war ; and as his convoys generally sep- 
arate between Cape Race and Hahfax, leaving the trade of 
the St. La\vrence to proceed without convoy, the chance 
of captures upon an extensive scale is very flattering." He 
added the just remark, that " it is impossible to conceive 
a naval service of a higher order in a national point of view 
than the destruction of the enemy's vessels, with supplies 
for his army in Canada and his fleets on this station." ^ 

Lawrence took command of the " Chesapeake " at Boston 
on May 20. The ship had returned from her last cruise 

1 Captains' Letters, June 3, 1812. 

2 The Department's orders to Evans and the letter transferring them to 
Lawrence, captured in the ship, can be found published in the Report on 
Canadian Archives, 1896, p. 74. A copy is attached to the Record of the 
subsequent Court of Inquiry, Xavy Department MSS. 

132 THE WAR OF 1812 

April 9, and had been so far prepared for sea by her former 
commander that, as has been seen, her sailing orders were 
issued May 6. It would appear from the statement of the 
British naval historian James,^ based upon a paper cap- 
tured in the ship, that the enlistments of her crew expired 
in April. Although there were many reshipments, and a 
nucleus of naval seameij, there was a large infusion of new 
and untrained men, amounting to a reconstitution of the 
ship's company. More important still was the fact that 
both the captain and first lieutenant were just appointed ; 
her former first lying fatally ill at the time she sailed. The 
third and fourth lieutenants were also strange to her, and 
in a manner to their positions ; being in fact midshipmen, 
to whom acting appointments as lieutenants were issued at 
Lawrence's request, by Commodore Bainbridge of the navy 
yard, on May 27, five days before the action. The third 
took charge of his division for the first time the day of the 
battle, and the men were personally unknown to him. The 
first lieutenant himself was extremely young. 

The bearing of these facts is not to excuse the defeat, 
but to enforce the lesson that a grave military enterprise 
is not to be hazarded on a side issue, or on a point of pride, 
without adequate preparation. The "Chesapeake" was 
ordered to a service of very particular importance at the 
moment — May, 1813 — when the Canada campaign was 
about to open. She was to act against the communications 
of the enemy; and while it is upon the whole more expedient, 
for the morale of a service, that battle with an equal should 
not be declined, quite as necessarily action should not be 
sought when it will materialJy interfere with the discharge 
of a duty intrinsically of greater consequence. The capture 
of a single enemy's frigate is not to be confounded with, 
or inflated to, that destruction of an enemy's organized 

1 James' Naval History, vol. vi., edition of 1837. The account of the action 
between the "Chesapeake " and " Shannon" will be found on pp. 196-205. 


force which is the prime object of all military effort. In- 
deed, the very purpose to which the " Chesapeake " was des- 
ignated was to cripple the organized force of the British, 
either the army in Canada, or the navy on the lakes. The 
chance of a disabling blow by unexpected action in the St. 
Lawrence much exceeded any gain to be anticipated, even 
by a victorious ship duel, which would not improbably 
entail return to port to refit ; while officers new to their 
duties, and unknown to their men, detracted greatly from 
the chances of success, should momentary disaster or con- 
fusion occur. 

The blockade of Boston Harbor at this moment was con- 
ducted by Captain Philip Vere Broke of the " Shannon," a 
38-gun frigate, which he had then commanded for seven 
years. His was one of those cases where singular merit as 
an officer, and an attention to duty altogether exceptional, 
had not yet obtained opportunity for distinction. It would 
probably be safe to say that no more thoroughly efficient 
ship of her class had been seen in the British navy during 
the twenty years' war with France, then drawing towards 
its close; but after Trafalgar Napoleon's policy, while 
steadily directed towards increasing the number of his ships, 
had more and more tended to husbanding them against a 
future occasion, which in the end never came. The result 
was a great diminution in naval combats. Hence, the out- 
break of the American war, followed by three frigate actions 
in rapid succession, opened out a new prospect, which was 
none the less stimulative because of the British reverses 
suffered. Captain Broke was justly confident in his own 
leadership and in the efficiency of a ship's company, which, 
whatever individual changes it may have undergone, had 
retained its identity of organization through so many years 
of his personal and energetic supervision. He now reason- 
ably hoped to demonstrate what could be done by officei-s and 
men so carefully trained. Captain Pechell of the " Santo 

134 THE WAR OF 1812 

Domingo," the flagship on the American station, wrote : 
" The ' Shannon's ' men were better trained, and understood 
gunnery better, than any men I ever saw ; " nevertheless, 
he added, " In the action with the ' Chesapeake ' the guns 
were all laid by Captain Broke's directions, consequently 
the fire was all thrown in one horizontal line, not a shot 
going over the * Chesapeake.' " ^ 

The escape of the " President " and " Congress " early in 
May, while the " Shannon " and her consort, the " Tene- 
dos," were temporarily off shore in consequence of easterly 
weather, put Broke still more upon his mettle ; and, fearing 
a similar mishap with the " Chesapeake," he sent Lawrence 
a challenge. ^ It has been said, by both Americans and 
English, that this letter was a model of courtesy. Un- 
doubtedly it was in all respects such as a gentleman might 
write ; but the courtesy was that of the French duellist, 
nervously anxious lest he should misplace an accent in the 
name of the man whom he intended to force into fight, and 
to kill. It was provocative to the last degree, which, for 
the end in view, it was probably meant to be. In it Broke 
showed himself as adroit with his pen — the adroitness of 
Canning — as he was to prove himself in battle. Not to 
speak of other points of irritation, the underlining of the 
words, "even combat," involved an imputation, none the 
less stinging because founded in truth, upon the pre- 
vious frigate actions, and upon Lawrence's own capture of 
the "Peacock." In guns, the "Chesapeake" and " Shan- 
non " were practically of equal force; but in the engagement 
the American frigate carried fifty more men than her adver- 
sary. To an invitation couched as was Broke's Lawrence 
was doubly vulnerable, for only six months had elapsed 
since he himself had sent a challenge to the " Bonne Citoy- 
enne." With his temperament he could scarcely have 

1 Secretary to the Admiralty, In-Letters, May, 1814, vol. 505, p. 777. 
8 Naval Chronicle, vol. xxx, p. 413. 


From the mezzotint by Charles Turner after the painting by Samuel Lane 
in the possession of Lady Saumarez. 


resisted the innuendo, had he received the letter ; but this 
he did not. It passed him on the way out and was delivered 
to Bainbridge, by whom it was forwarded to the Navy 

Although Broke's letter did not reach him, Captain Law- 
rence made no attempt to get to sea without engagement. 
The " Shannon's " running close to Boston Light, show- 
ing her colors, and heaving-to in defiance, served the pur- 
pose of a challenge. Cooper, who was in full touch with 
the naval tradition of the time, has transmitted that 
Lawrence went into the action with great reluctance. This 
could have proceeded only from consciousness of defect- 
ive organization, for the heroic temper of the man was 
notorious, and there is no hint of that mysterious presenti- 
ment so frequent in the annals of military services. The 
■wind being fair from the westward, the *' Chesapeake," 
which had unmoored at 8 A.M., lifted her last anchor at 
noon, June 1, and made sail. The " Shannon," seeing at 
hand the combat she had provoked, stood out to sea until 
on the line between Cape Ann and Cape Cod, where she 
hove-to on the starboard tack, heading to the southeast. 
The " Chesapeake " followed under all sail until 5 p.m., when 
she took in her light canvas, sending the loftier — royal — 
yards on deck ; and at 5.30 hauled up her courses, thus 
reducing herself to the fighting trim already assumed by 
her adversary. The " Shannon," which had been lying 
stopped for a long time, at this same moment filled her 
sails, to regain headway with which to manoeuvre, in case 
her opponent's action should require it ; but, after gather- 
ing speed sufficient for this purpose, the British captain 
again slowed his ship, by so bracing the maintopsail that it 
was kept shaking in the wind. Its effect being thus lost, 
though readily recoverable, her forward movement de- 
pended upon the sails of the fore and mizzen masts (1). 
In this attitude, and steering southeast by the wind, she 

136 THE WAR OF 1812 

awaited her antagonist, who was running for her weather — 
starboard — quarter, and whose approach, thus seconded, 
became now very rapid. Broke raade no further change in 
the ship's direction, leaving the choice of windward or lee- 
ward side to Lawrence, who took the former, discarding all 
tactical advantages, and preferring a simple artillery duel 
between the vessels. 

Just before she closed, the " Chesapeake " rounded-to, 
taking a parallel course, and backing the maintopsail 
(1) to reduce her speed to that of the enemy. Captain 
Lawrence in his eagerness had made the serious error of 
coming up under too great headway. At 5.50, as her bows 
doubled on the quarter of the " Shannon " (1), at the dis- 
tance of fifty yards, the British ship opened fire, beginning 
with the after gun, and continuing thence forward, as each 
in succession bore upon the advancing American frigate. 
The latter replied after the second British discharge, and 
the combat at once became furious. The previous history 
of the two vessels makes it probable that the British gun- 
nery was the better ; but it is impossible, seeing the course 
the action finally took, so far to disentangle the effects 
of the fire while they were on equal terms of position, from 
the totals afterwards ascertained, as to say where the advan- 
tage, if any, lay during those few minutes. The testimony 
of the " Chesapeake's " second lieutenant, that his division 
— the forward one on the gun deck — fired three rounds 
before their guns ceased to bear, agrees with Broke's report 
that two or three broadsides were exchanged ; and the time 
needed by well-drilled men to do this is well within, yet 
accords fairly with, James' statement, that from the first 
gun to the second stage in the action six minutes elapsed. 
During the first of this period the " Chesapeake " kept 
moving parallel at fifty yards distance, but gaining contin- 
ually, threatening thus to pass wholly ahead, so that her 
guns would bear no longer. To prevent this Lawrence 



A|5— -' 


luffed closer to the wind to shake her sails, but in vain ; 
the movement increased her distance, but she still ranged 
ahead, so that she finally reached much further than abreast 
of the enemy. To use the nautical expression, she was 
on the "Shannon's" weather bow (2). While this was 
happening her sailing meister was killed and Lawrence 
wounded ; these being the two officers chiefly concerned in 
the handling of the ship. 

Upon this supervened a concurrence of accidents, affect- 
ing her manageability, which initiated the second scene in 
the drama, and called for instantaneous action by the 
officers injured. The foretopsail tie being cut by the 
enemy's fire, the yard dropped, leaving the sail empty of 
wind ; and at the same time were shot away the jib-sheet 
and the brails of the spanker. Although the latter, flying 
loose, tends to spread itself against the mizzen rigging, it 
probably added httle to the effect of the after sails ; but, the 
foresail not being set, the first two mishaps practically took 
all the forward canvas off the " Chesapeake." Under the 
combined impulses she, at 5.56, came up into the wind (3), 
lost her way, and, although her mainyard had been braced 
up, finally gathered stemboard ; the upshot being that she 
lay paralyzed some seventy yards from the " Shannon " 
(3, 4, 5), obliquely to the latter's course and slightly ahead 
of her. The British ship going, or steering, a little off (3), 
her guns bore fair upon the " Chesapeake," which, by 
her involuntarily coming into the wind, — to such an ex- 
tent that Broke thought she was attempting to haul off, 
and himself hauled closer to the wind in consequence 
(4), — lost in great measure the power of reply, except by 
musketry. The British shot, entering the stem and quarter 
of her opponent, swept diagonally along the after parts of 
the spar and main decks, a half-raking fire. 

Under these conditions Lawrence and the first lieutenant 
were mortally wounded, the former falling by a musket- 

138 THE WAR OF 1812 

ball through his body ; but he had already given orders to 
have the boarders "called, seeing that the ship must drift 
foul of the enemy (5). The chaplain, who in the boarding 
behaved courageously, meeting Broke in person with a pistol- 
shot, and receiving a cutlass wound in return, was standing 
close by the captain at this instant. He afterwards testified 
that as Lawrence cried " Boarders away," the crews of the 
carronades ran forward ; which corresponds to Broke's re- 
port that, seeing the enemy flinching from their guns, he then 
gave the order for boarding. This may have been, indeed, 
merely the instinctive impulse which drives disorganized 
men to seek escape from a fire which they cannot return ; 
but if Cooper is correct in saying that it was the practice 
of that day to keep the boarders' weapons, not by their 
side, but on the quarter-deck or at the masts, it may also 
have been that this division, which had so far stuck to 
its guns while being raked, now, at the captain's call, 
ran from them to get the side-arms. At the Court of 
Inquiry it was in evidence that these men were unarmed ; 
and one of them, a petty officer, stated that he had defended 
himself with the monkey tail of his gun. Whatever the 
cause, although there was fighting to prevent the " Chesa- 
peake " from being lashed to the " Shannon," no combined 
resistance was offered abaft the mainmast. There the 
marines made a stand, but were overpowered and driven 
forward. The negro bugler of the ship, who should have 
echoed Lawrence's summons, was too frightened to sound 
a note, and the voices of the aids, who shouted the message 
to the gun deck, were imperfectly heard; but, above all, 
leaders were wanting. There was not on the upper deck 
an officer above the grade of midshipman ; captain, first 
lieutenant, master, marine officer, and even the boatswain, 
had been mortally wounded before the ships touched. The 
second lieutenant was in charge of the first gun division, 
at the far end of the deck below, as yet ignorant how the 

S S "I 

>■ ?: =^ 

|§ ^ 


fight was going, and that the fate of his superiors had 
put him in command. Of the remaining lieutenants, also 
stationed on the gun deck, the fourth had been mortally 
wounded by the first broadside ; while the third, who had 
heard the shout for boarders, committed the indiscretion, 
ruinous to his professional reputation, of accompanying 
those who, at the moment the ships came together, were 
carrying below the wounded captain. 

Before the new commanding officer could get to the spar 
deck, the ships were in contact. According to the report 
of Captain Broke, the most competent surviving eye- 
witness, the mizzen channels of the " Chesapeake " locked 
in the fore-rigging of the " Shannon." " I w^ent forward," 
he continues, " to ascertain her position, and obser%dng that 
the enemy were flinching from their guns, I gave orders 
to prepare for boarding." When the " Chesapeake's " sec- 
ond lieutenant reached the forecastle, the British were in 
possession of the after part of the ship, and of the principal 
hatchways by which the boarders of the after divisions 
could come up. He directed the foresail set, to shoot the 
ship clear, to prevent thus a re-enforcement to the enemy 
already on board ; and he rallied a few men, but was him- 
self soon wounded and thrown below. In brief, the fall of 
their officers and the position of the ship, in irons and being 
raked, had thrown the crew into the confusion attendant 
upon all sudden disaster. From this state only the rally- 
ing cry of a well-known voice and example can rescue men. 
" The enemy," reported Broke, " made a desperate but dis- 
orderly resistance." The desperation of brave men is the 
temper which at times may retrieve such conditions, but it 
must be guided and fashioned by a master spirit into some- 
thing better than disorder, if it is to be effective. Disorder 
at any stage of a battle is incipient defeat ; supervening 
upon the enemy's gaining a commanding position it com- 
monly means defeat consummated. 

140 THE WAR OF 1812 

Fifteen minutes elapsed from the discharge of the first 
gun of the " Shannon " to the " Chesapeake's " colors being 
hauled down. This was done by the enemy, her own crew 
having been driven forward. In that brief interval twenty- 
six British were killed and fifty-six wounded ; of the Ameri- 
cans forty-eight were killed and ninety-nine wounded. In 
proportion to the number on board each ship when the 
action began, the "Shannon" lost in men 24 per cent; 
the " Chesapeake" 46 per cent, or practically double. 

Although a certain amount of national exultation or 
mortification attends victory or defeat in an international 
contest, from a yacht race to a frigate action, there is no 
question of national credit in the result where initial in- 
equality is great, as in such combats as that of the " Chesa- 
peake " and " Shannon," or the " Constitution " and 
" Guerridre." It is possible for an officer to command a 
ship for seven years, as Broke had, and fail to make of her 
the admirable pattern of all that a ship of war should be, 
which he accomplished with the " Shannon " ; but no cap- 
tain can in four weeks make a thoroughly officient crew 
out of a crowd of men newly assembled, and never out of 
harbor together. The question at issue is not national, but 
personal ; it is the credit of Captain Lawrence. That it 
was inexpedient to take the " Chesapeake " into action at 
all at that moment does not admit of dispute ; though 
much allowance must be made for a gallant spirit, still in 
the early prime of life, and chafing under the thought that, 
should he get to sea by successful evasion, he would be 
open to the taunt, freely used by Broke,i of dodging, 
" eluding," an enemy only his equal in material force. 

Having, however, undertaken a risk which cannot be 

J Broke, in his letter of challenge, " was disappointed that, after various 
verbal messages sent into Boston, Commodore Rodgers, with the ' Presi- 
dent ' and ' Congress,' had eluded the ' Shannon ' and ' Tenedos,' by sailing 
the first chance, after the prevailing easterly winds had obliged us to keep an 
oflRug from the coast," 


From the painting by Gilbert Stuart in the possetsion of the Xetv Jersey 
Historical Society, Xewark, X. J. 


justified, was Captain Lawrence also reckless, and vainly 
confident, in his conduct before and during the action? 
Was he foolhardy, or only rash ? The reply, if favorable, 
is due to one of the most gallant and attractive personalities 
in the annals of the United States Navy. 

From his action it is evident that Lawrence clearly rec- 
ognized that a green crew can be more quickly formed to 
efiiciency at the battery than to that familiarity with the 
rigging and the sails, and that habit of working together 
about decks, on which manoeuvring power depends. He 
therefore chose an artillery duel, surrendering even the op- 
portunity of raking permitted him by Broke, who awaited 
his approach without an attempt at molestation. How far 
was his expectation as to the results overstrained ? The 
American crew lost double in proportion to their enemy ; 
hut it did not fail to inflict a very severe punishment, and 
it must be added under a verj' considerable disadvan- 
tage, which there has been a tendency recently to under- 
estimate. The loss of the head sails, and all that followed, 
is part of the fortune of war ; of that unforeseeable, which 
great leaders admit may derange even the surest calcu- 
lations. It is not, therefore, to be complained of, but it 
is nevertheless to receive due account in the scales of 
praise and blame ; for the man who will run no risks of 
accidents accomplishes nothing. 

In the preceding narrative, and in the following analysis, 
the account of the British naval writer James is in essen- 
tials adopted ; chiefly because, of all historians having con- 
temporary sources of information, he has been at most 
pains to insure precision.^ As told by him, the engagement 

^ For the reason here assigned, and others mentioned in the narrative, 
the author has preferred to follow in the main James' account, analyzed, and 
compared with Broke's report (Xaval Chronicle, toI. xxx. p. 83), and with the 
testimony in the Court of Inquiry held in Boston on the surrender of the 
" Chesapeake," and in the resultant courts martial upon Lieutenant Cox and 
other persons connected with the ship, which are in the Navy Department 

142 THE WAR OF 1812 

divides into three stages. First, the combat side to side ; 
second, the period during which the " Chesapeake " lay in 
the wind being raked ; third, tlie boarding and taking pos- 
session. To these James assigns, as times : for the first, 
six minutes ; for the second, four ; for the third, five ; this 
last being again subdivisible into a space of two minutes, 
during which the " Chesapeake " was being lashed to her 
opponent, and the actual fighting on her decks, which 
Broke states did not exceed three. 

The brief and disorderly, though desperate, resistance to 
boarding proves that the " Chesapeake " was already beaten 
by the cannonade, which lasted, as above, ten minutes. 
During only six of these, accepting James' times, was she 
on equal gunnery terms. During four tenths — nearly one 
half — of the gunnery contest she was at a great disadvan- 
tage. The necessity of manoeuvring, which Lawrence tried 
to avoid, was forced upon him ; and the ship's company, or 
her circumstances, proved unequal to meeting it. Never- 
theless, though little more than half the time on equal 
terms of position with her opponent, half her own loss was 
inflicted upon him. How great her subsequent disadvan- 
tage is best stated in the words of James, whom no one 
will accuse of making points in favor of Americans. " At 
5.56, having had her jib-sheet and foretopsail tie shot 
away, and her helm, probably from the death of the men 
stationed at it, being at the moment unattended to, the 
' Chesapeake ' came so sharp to the wind as completely to 
deaden her way." How extreme this deviation from her 
course is shown by the impression made on Broke. " As 
the manoeuvres of the ' Chesapeake ' indicated an intention 
to haul away, Captain Broke ordered the helm to be put 
a-lee, as the ' Shannon ' had fallen off a little." The " Chesa- 

MSS. The official report of Lieutenant Budd, the senior surviving officer of 
the " Chesapeake," is published in Niles' Register (vol. iv. p. 290), which gives 
also several unofficial statements of onlookers, and others. , 


peake's " way being deadened, " the ship lay with her stem 
and quarter exposed to her opponent's broadside. The 
shot from the ' Shannon's ' aftermost guns now took a diag- 
onal direction along ^ the decks of the ' Chesapeake,' beat- 
ing in her stem ports, and sweeping the men from their 
quarters. The shot from the ' Shannon's ' foremost guns, 
at the same time, entering the ' Chesapeake's ' ports from 
the mainmast aft, did considerable execution." This de- 
scribes a semi-raking fire, which lasted four minutes, from 
5.56 to 6 P.M., when the ships came together. 

The manner of collision and the injuries received bear 
out the above account. The quarter of the " Chesapeake " 
came against the side of the " Shannon," the angle at the 
moment, as represented in James' diagram, being such 
as to make it impossible that any of the " Chesapeake's " 
guns, save one or two of the after ones, could then bear ; 
and as she was already paying off, they had been in worse 
position before. " She was severely battered in the hull, 
on the larboard quarter particularly ; and several shot en- 
tered the stem windows. . . . Her three lower masts were 
badly wounded, the main and mizzen especially. The bow- 
sprit received no injury." All these details show that 
the sum total of the " Shannon's " fire was directed most 
effectively upon the after part of the ship, in the manner 
described by James ; and coupled with the fact that the 
British first broadside, alwaj^s reckoned the most deadly, 
would natumlly take effect chiefly on the fore part of the 
" Chesapeake," as she advanced from the " Shannon's " 
stern to her bow,^ we are justified in the inference that the 

^ Not " across " ; the distinction is important, being decisive of general 
raking direction. 

2 Actually, a contemporary acconnt, borrowed by the British " Naval 
Chronicle " (vol. xxx. p. 161) from a Halifax paper, bnt avouched as trust- 
worthy, says the " Chesapeake" was terribly battered on the larboard bow 
as well a.s quarter. The details in the text indicate merely the local pre- 
ponderance of injury, and the time and manner of its occurrence. 

144 THE WAR OF 1812 

worst of her loss was suffered after accident had taken her 
movements out of Lawrenca's instant control. Under these 
circumstances it may be claimed for him that the artillery 
duel, to which he sought to confine the battle, was not so 
entirely a desperate chance as has been inferred. 

It may therefore be said that, having resolved upon a 
risk which cannot be justified at the bar of dispassionate 
professional judgment, Captain Lawrence did not commit 
the further unpardonable error of not maturely weighing 
and judiciously choosing his course. That the crew was 
not organized and exercised at the guns, as far as his time 
and opportunity permitted, is disproved by incidental men- 
tion in the courts martial that followed, as well as by the 
execution done. Within ten minutes at the utmost, within 
six of equal terms, the " Chesapeake," an 18-pounder frigate, 
killed and wounded of the " Shannon's '' ship's company as 
many as the " Constitution " with her 24's did of the " Guer- 
rifere's" in over twenty; ^ and the " Constitution" not only 
was a much heavier ship than her opponent, but had been 
six weeks almost continuously at sea. When her crew had 
been together four months longer, the loss inflicted by her 
upon the " Java," in a contest spread over two hours, did 
not greatly exceed in proportion that suffered by the 
" Shannon " ; and the circumstances of that engagement, 
being largely manoeuvring, justified Lawrence's decision, 
under his circumstances, to have none of it. His reliance 
upon the marksmanship of his men is further vindicated by 
Broke's report that neither vessel suffered much aloft. 
The American and best British tradition of firing low was 
sustained by both ships. Finally, although the organiza- 
tion of the " Chesapeake " was not matured sufficiently to 
hold the people together, without leaders, after a tremen- 

^ A slight qualification is here needed, in that of the injured of the 
" Shannon " some were hurt in the boarding, not by the cannonade ; but the 
general statement is substantially accurate. 


dous punishment by the enemy's battery, and in the face of 
well-ti-ained and rapidly supported boarders, it had so far 
progressed in cohesion that they did not flinch from their 
guns through a severe raking fire. What further shows 
this is that the boatswain of the " Shannon," lashing the 
ships together in ^preparation for boarding, was mortally 
wounded, not by musketry only but by sabre. When thus 
attacked he doubtless was supported by a body of fighters 
as well as a gang of workers. In fact, Broke was himself 
close by. 

Under thus much of preparation, certainly not sufficient, 
Lawrence chose for action a smooth sea, a royal breeze, an 
artillery duel, and a close range. " No manoeuvring, but 
downright fighting," as Nelson said of his most critical 
battle ; critical, just because his opponents, though raw 
tyros compared to his own crews, had nothing to do but to 
work their guns. The American captain took the most 
promising method open to him for achieving success, and 
carried into the fight a ship's company which was not so 
untrained but that, had some luck favored him, instead of 
going the other way, there was a fighting chance of victory. 
More cannot be claimed for him. He had no right, under 
the conditions, voluntarily to seek the odds against him, 
established by Broke's seven years of faithful and skilful 
command. Except in material force, the " Chesapeake " 
was a ship much inferior to the " Shannon," as a regiment 
newly enlisted is to one that has seen service ; and the 
moment things went seriously wrong she could not retrieve 
herself. This her captain must have known; and to the 
accusation of his country and his service that he brought 
upon them a mortification which endures to this day, the 
only reply is that he died " sword in hand." This covers 
the error of the dead, but cannot justify the example to 
the living. 

As is customary in such cases, a Court of Inquiry was 

VOL. II. 10 

146 THE WAR OF 1812 

ordered to investigate the defeat of the " Chesapeake," and 
sat from February 2 to February 8, 1814. Little can be 
gleaned from the evidence concerning the manoeuvring 
of the ship ; the only two commissioned officers surviv- 
ing, having been stationed on the gun deck, could not see 
what passed above. Incidental statem^ts by midshipmen 
examined confirm substantially the account above given. 
One mentions the particular that, when the head sheets 
were shot away, " the bow of the ' Shannon ' was abreast 
of the * Chesapeake's ' midships, and she came into the 
wind ; " he adds that the mizzen-topsail was a-back, as well 
as the main. This is the only important contribution to 
the determination of the relative positions and handling 
of the vessels. As far as it goes, it confirms a general im- 
pression that Lawrence's eagerness prevented his making 
due allowance for the way of the " Chesapeake," causing 
him to overshoot his aim ; an error of judgment, which the 
accidents to the headsails converted into irretrievable 
disaster. The general testimony agrees that the crew, 
though dissatisfied at non-receipt of pay and prize money, 
behaved well until the moment of boarding. Four wit- 
nesses, all officers, stated as of their own observation that 
the " Shannon " received several shot between wind and 
water, and used her pumps continuously on the way to 
Halifax. Budd, the second lieutenant, " was informed by 
an officer of the ' Shannon ' that she was in a sinking con- 
dition." " The ' Chesapeake ' was not injured below her 
quarters, except by one or two shot." " The ' Chesapeake ' 
made no water ; but the ' Shannon ' had hands at the pumps 
continually," A good deal of pumping in a ship seven 
years in commission did not necessarily indicate injuries in 
action ; Midshipman Curtis, however, who was transferred 
to the " Shannon," testified that " the British officers were 
encouraging the men by cheering to work at the pumps," 
which looks more serious. The purser of the " Chesa- 


peake " swore that she had shot plugs at the water-line, and 
that " her sailing master said she had three shot holes be- 
low." The repetition of remarks made by the " Shannon's " 
officers is of course only heareay testimony ; but as regards 
the shots below the water-line, — as distinguished from the 
general body of the ship, — this on the one hand shows 
that tJie "Shannon" had her share of bad luck, for in the 
smoke of the battle this result is not attributable to nice 
precision of aiming. On the other hand it strongly re- 
enforces the proof of the excellent marksmanship of the 
American frigate, deducible from the killed and wounded 
of her opponent, and it confirms the inference that her own 
disproportionate loss was at least partly due to the raking 
fire and her simultaneous disability to reply. Upon the 
whole, the conclusion to the writer is clear that, while 
Lawrence should not have courted action, the condition of 
the " Chesapeake " as a fighting ship was far better than 
has commonly been supposed. It may be added that an 
irresponsible contemporary statement, that his " orders were 
peremptory," is disproved by the Department's letter, which 
forms part of the Court's record. He was to " proceed to 
sea as soon as weather, and the force and position of the 
enemy, will admit." Even a successful action must be 
expected to compel return to port, preventing his proceed- 
ing ; and there is an obvious difference between fighting 
an enemy when met, and going out especially to fight him. 
The orders were discretional. 

Whether, by paying attention to favoring conditions, 
Captain Lawrence could have repeated the success of 
Commodore Rodgers in gaining the sea a month before, 
must remain uncertain. The "Constitution," under Cap- 
tain Stewart, a seaman of very excellent reputation, was 
imable to do so, until the winter gales made it impossible 
for the blockaders to maintain an uninteiTupted watch off 
Boston. The sailing of the " President " and " Congress " 

148 THE WAR OF 1812 

was the last successful effort for many months ; and the 
capture of the " Chesapeake " was the first of several 
incidents illustrating how complete was the iron-barring 
of the coast, against all but small vessels. 

Commodore Decatur, having found it impossible to get 
out from New York by the Sandy Hook route, undertook 
that by Long Island Sound. Passing through Hell Gate, 
May 24, with his little squadron, — the " United States," 
the " Macedonian," her late prize, and the sloop of war 
" Hornet," — he was on the 26th off Fisher's Island, abreast 
of New London. Here he remained until June 1, obtain- 
ing various information concerning the enemy, but only 
certain that there was at least a ship of the line and a 
frigate in the neighborhood. On the last named day, that 
of the fight between the " Chesapeake " and the " Shannon," 
the wind serving, and the two enemy's vessels being far to 
the southwest of Montauk Point, at the east end of Long 
Island, the squadron put to sea together ; but on approach- 
ing Block Island, which was close to their course, two more 
enemy's cruisers loomed up to the eastward. The hostile 
groups manoeuvred severally to get between the Americans 
and their ports of refuge, New London in the one quarter, 
Newport in the other. In plain sight of this overwhelming 
force Decatur feared the results of trying to slip out 
to sea, and therefore beat back to New London.^ The 
enemy followed, and, having now this division securely 
housed, instituted a close blockade. It was apprehended 
even that they might endeavor to take it by main force, 
the defences of the place being weak ; but, as is commonly 
the case, the dangers of an attack upon land batteries were 
sufficient to deter the ships from an attempt, the object of 
which could be attained with equal certainty by means less 
hazardous, if less immediate. 

The upshot was that the two frigates remained there block- 

1 Decatur to Navy Department. Captains' Letters, June, 1813. 


aded to the end of the war ; dependent for their safety, in 
Decatur's opinion, rather upon the difficulty of the channel 
than upon the strength of the fortifications. " Fort Trum- 
bull, the only work here mounted or garrisoned, was in the 
most unprepared state, and only one or two cannon were to 
be had in the neighborhood for any temporary work which 
should be erected. I immediately directed all my exertions 
to strengthening the defences. Groton Heights has been 
hastily prepared for the reception of a few large guns, and 
they will be mounted immediately. ... I think the place 
might be made impregnable ; but the hostile force on our 
coast is so great that, were the enemy to exert a large por- 
tion of his means in an attack here, I do not feel certain 
he could be resisted successfully with the present defences." ^ 
On December 6 he reported that the squadron was moored 
across the channel and under Groton Heights, which had 
been fortified; while in the mouth of the harbor, three 
gunshots distant, was anchored a British di\-ision, consisting 
of one ship of the line, a frigate, and two smaller vessels. 
Two other ships of the line and several frigates were cruis- 
ing in the open, between the east end of Long Island and 
Gay Head. This state of affairs lasted throughout the 
winter, during which the ships were kept in a state of ex- 
pectancy, awaiting a possible opportunity ; but, when the 
return of spring found the hope unfulfilled, it was plainly 
idle to look to the summer to afford what winter had 
denied. The frigates were lightened over a three-fathom 
bar, and thence, in April, 1814, removed up the Thames 
fourteen miles, as far as the depth of water would permit. 
Being there wholly out of reach of the enemy's heavy 
vessels, they were dismantled, and left to the protection 
of the shore batteries and the " Hornet," retained for that 
purpose. Decatur was transferred to the " President," then 
at New York, taking with him his ship's company ; while 
1 Decatar to Navy Department. Captains' Letters, June, 1813. 

150 THE WAR OF 1812 

the crew of the " Macedonian " was sent to the lakes. The 
enemy's vessels then off New London were three seventy- 
fours, four frigates, and three sloops. 

This accumulation of force, to watch Decatur's two frig- 
ates and the " President," which during October and No- 
vember was lying at Bristol, Rhode Island, testified to the 
anxiety of the British Government to restrain or capture 
the larger American cruisers. Their individual power was 
such that it was unwilling to expose to attack by them the 
vessels, nominally of the same class, but actually much 
inferior, which were ranging all seas to protect British 
commerce. That this should suffer, and in some consid- 
erable degree, from the operations of well-developed priva- 
teering enterprise, pursued by a maritime people debarred 
from every other form of maritime activity, was to be ex- 
pected, and must be endured ; but the frigates carried with 
them the further menace, not indeed of serious injury to the 
colossal naval power of Great Britain, but of mortification 
for defeats, which, however reasonably to be accounted for 
by preponderance of force, are not patiently accepted by a 
nation accustomed to regard itself as invincible. There are 
few things more wearing than explaining adverse results ; 
and the moral effect of so satisfactory a reply as the victory 
of the " Shannon " might well have weighed with an Ameri- 
can captain, not to risk prestige already gained, by seeking 
action when conscious of deficient preparation. The clamor 
aroused in Great Britain by the three rapidly succeeding 
captures of the " Guerrifere," " Macedonian," and " Java," 
was ample justification of the American policy of securing 
superior force in single cruisers, throughout their several 
classes ; a policy entirely consistent with all sound military 
principle. It should be remembered, however, that a cruiser 
is intended generally to act singly, and depends upon her- 
self alone for that preponderance of strength which military 
effort usually seeks by concentration of numbers. The 


advantage of great individual power, therefore, does not 
apply so unqualifiedly to the components of fleets, the 
superiority of which depends upon the mutual support of 
its members, by efficient combination of movement, as well 
as upon their separate power. 

Both the Government and people of Great Britain ex- 
pected with some confidence, from the large fleet placed 
under Sir John Warren, the utter destruction of the 
frigates and of the American navy generally. " We were 
in hopes, ere this," said a naval periodical in June, 1813, 
" to have announced the capture of the American navy ; 
and, as our commander-in-chief on that station has suffi- 
cient foi'ce to effect so desirable an object, we trust, before 
another month elapses, to lay before our readers what we 
conceive ought long since to have happened." ^ The words 
of the Admiralty were more measured, as responsible utter- 
ances are prone to be ; but their tenor was the same. Ex- 
pressing to Warren disappointment with the results so far 
obtained, they added : " It is of the highest importance to 
the character and interests of the country that the naval 
force of the enemy should be quickly and completely dis- 
posed of. Their Lordships therefore have thought them- 
selves justified at this moment in withdrawing ships from 
other important services, for the purpose of placing under 
your command a force with which you cannot fail to bring 
the naval war to a termination, either by the capture of the 
American national vessels, or by strictly blockading them 
in their own waters." ^ This expectancy doubtless weighed 
with Broke ; and probably also prompted a challenge sent 
to Decatur's squadron to meet two British frigates, under 
pledge of fair play, and of safe return if victorious. In the 
latter case they at least would be badly injured; so in 

^ Naval Chronicle, vol. xxix. p. 497. 

- Croker t* Warren, Jan. 9, 1813. Admiralty Oat-Letters, British Records 
OflBce. Mv italics. 

162 THE WAR OF 1812 

either event the blockaders would be relieved of much of 
their burden. 

The presence of several American frigates, blockaded 
close to the point where Narragansett Bay and Long Island 
Sound meet, constituted a great inconvenience to all that 
region, by attracting thither so many enemy's cruisers. To 
a coasting trade — then so singularly important — projecting 
headlands, or capes, are the places of greatest exposure ; in 
this resembling the danger entailed by salients in all military 
lines, in fortification or in the field. Traffic between New 
England and New York, general and local, had derived a fur- 
ther impetus from the fact that Newport, not being included 
in the commercial blockade, could still receive external sup- 
plies by neutral vessels. Intercourse depended largely on 
these waters ; and it was to them a grave misfortune that 
there were no United States frigates left in New York 
to divert the enemy's attention. The vexations entailed 
were forcibly presented by the Governor of Connecticut.^ 
" The British force stationed in our waters having oc- 
casioned great inquietude along the whole of our maritime 
frontier, every precaution consistent with due regard to the 
general safety has been adopted for its protection. ... In 
our present state of preparedness, it is believed a descent 
upon our coast will not be attempted; a well-grounded 
hope is entertained that it will be attended with little suc- 
cess. Unfortunately, we have not the means of rendering 
our navigation equally secure. Serious depredations have 
been committed even in our harbors, and to such an extent 
that the usual communication through the Sound is almost 
wholly interrupted. Thus, while anxiously engaged in 
protecting our public ships [Decatur's], we are doomed to 
witness the unrestrained capture of our private vessels, 
and the consequent suspension of commercial pursuits." 

1 Message of the Governor of Connecticut, October, 1813. Niles' Register, 
vol. V. p. 121. 


As " the disapprobation of the war by the people of Con- 
necticut had been publicly declared through the proper 
organs shortly after hostilities commenced," ^ it may be sup- 
posed the conditions described, accompanied by continual 
alarms withdrawing the militiaman from his shop or his 
harvest, to repel petty invasion, did not tend to conciliate 
opinion. An officer of the Connecticut militia wrote in 
December, " Our engagements ^vith the enemy have become 
so frequent that it would be in vain to attempt a particular 
statement of each." ^ 

Similar conditions prevailed along the entire seaboard, 
from Maine to Georgia; being of course greatest where 
inland navigation with wide entrances, like Long Island 
Sound, had given particular development to the coasting 
trade, and at the same time afforded to pursuere particular 
immunity from ordinary dangers of the sea. Incidental 
confirmation of the closeness of the hostile pressure is af- 
forded by Bainbridge's report of the brig " Siren's " arrival 
at Boston, June 11, 1813, from New Orleans. " Although 
at sea between thirty and forty days, and great time along 
our blockaded coast, she did not see one enemy's cruiser." ** 
The cause is evident. The Chesapeake and Delaware were 
blockaded from within. Ships watching New York and 
Long Island Sound would be far inside the course of one 
destined to Boston from the southward. From Hatteras 
to the Florida line the enemy's vessels, mostly of small 
class, kept in summer well inside the Une from cape to 
cape, harassing even the water traffic behind the sea- 
islands ; while at Boston, her port of arrival, the " Siren " 
was favored by Broke's procedure. In his eagerness to 
secure action with the " Chesapeake," he had detached his 
consort, the " Tenedos," with orders not to rejoin until 

^ Message of the Governor of Connecticut, October, 1813. Niles' Register, 
vol. V. p. 121. 

2 Niles' Register, voL y. p. 302. 
' Captains' Letters. 

154 THE WAR OF 1812 

June 14. Under cover of her absence, and the " Shannon's " 
return to Halifax with her prize, the " Siren " slipped into a 
harbor wholly relieved of the enemy's presence. With such 
conditions, a voyage along the coast could well be outside 
the British line of cruising. 

Owing to the difficulty of the New York entrance, ex- 
cept with good pilotage, and to the absence thence of ships 
of war after Decatur's departure, that port ceased to present 
any features of naval activity ; except as connected with the 
lake squadrons, which depended upon it for supplies of all 
kinds. The blockade of the Sound affected its domestic 
trade ; and after May its external commerce shared the in- 
conveniences of the commercial blockade, then applied to it, 
and made at least technically effective. What this pressure 
in the end became is shown by a casual mention a year 
later, under the heading " progress of luxury. A private 
stock of wine brought the average ' extraordinary ' price of 
twenty-five dollars the gallon; while at the same period 
one auction lot of prize goods, comprising three decanters 
and twelve tumblers, sold for one hundred and twelve 
dollars." ^ The arrival in August, 1813, of a vessel in 
distress, which, like the " Siren," had passed along the whole 
Southern coast without seeing a hostile cruiser, would seem 
to show some lapse of watchfulness ; but, although there 
were the occasional evasions which attend all blockades, 
the general fact of neutrals turned away was established. 
A flotilla of a dozen gunboats was kept in commission in 
the bay, but under an officer not of the regular navy. 
As might readily have been foreseen from conditions, and 
from experience elsewhere, the national gunboat experiment 
had abundantly shown that vessels of that class were not 
only excessively costly in expenditure, and lamentably in- 
efficient in results, as compared with seagoing cruisers, but 
were also deleterious to the professional character of officers 

1 Niles' Kegister, vol. vi. p. 136. 


and seamen. Two years before the war Captain Campbell, 
then in command both at Charleston and Savannah, had 
commented on the nnofficer-like neglect noticeable in the 
gunboats, and Gordon now reported the same effect upon 
the crew of the " Constellation," while thus detached for 
harbor defence.^ The Secretary of the Na"v^', affirming 
the general observation, remarked that officers having 
knowledge of their business were averse to gunboat duty, 
while those who had it yet to acquire were unwilling, 
because there it could not be learned. " It is a service in 
which those who are to form the officers for the ships of 
war ought not to be employed." ^ He therefore had 
recommended the commissioning of volunteer officers for 
this work. This local New York harbor guard at times 
convoyed coasters in the Sound, and at times interfered, 
both in that quarter and off Sandy Hook, to prevent small 
cruisers or boats of the enemy from effecting seizures of 
vessels, close in shore or run on the beach. Such military 
action possesses a certain minor value, diminishing in some 
measure the grand total of loss ; but it is not capable of 
modifying seriously the broad results of a strong com- 
mercial blockade. 

The Delaware and the Chesapeake — tlje latter partic- 
ularly — became the principal scenes of active operations 
by the British navy. Here in the early part of the summer 
there seems to have been a formed determination on the 
part of Sir John Warren to satisfy his Government and 
people by evidence of military exertion in various quarters. 
Rear Admiral George Cockburn, an officer of distinction 
and energy, had been ordered at the end of 1812 from the 
Cadiz station, with foui- ships of the line and several smaller 
cruisers, to re-enforce Warren. This strong detachment, a 

1 Captains' Letters, Nov. 3 and Dec. 31, 1809; March 26, 1810; and 
Oct. 12, 1813. 

2 American State Papers, Naval Afiairs, vol. i. p. 307. 

156 THE WAR OF 1812 

token at once of the relaxing demand upon the British 
navy in Europe, and of the increasing purpose of the 
British Government towards the United States, joined the 
commander-in-chief at Bermuda, and accompanied him to 
the Chesapeake in March. Cockburn became second in 
command. Early in April the fleet began moving up the 
bay; an opening incident, already mentioned,^ being the 
successful attack by its boats upon several letters-of-marque 
and privateers in the Rappahannock upon the 3d of the 
month. Some of the schooners there captured were con- 
verted into tenders, useful for penetrating the numer- 
ous waterways which intersected the country in every 

The fleet, comprising several ships of the line, besides 
numerous smaller vessels, continued slowly upwards, tak- 
ing time to land parties in many quarters, keeping the 
country in perpetual alarm. The multiplicity and diverse- 
ness of its operations, the particular object of which could 
at no moment be foreseen, made it impossible to combine 
resistance. The harassment was necessarily extreme, and 
the sustained suspense wearing; for, with reports contin- 
ually arriving, now from one shore and now from the 
other, each neighborhood thought itself the next to be 
attacked. Defence depended wholly upon militia, hastily 
assembled, with whom local considerations are necessarily 
predominant. But while thus spreading consternation on 
either side, diverting attention from his main objective, 
the purpose of the British admiral was clear to his own 
mind. It was " to cut off the enemy's supplies, and de- 
stroy their foundries, stores, and public works, by pene- 
trating the rivers at the head of the Chesapeake." 

On April 16 an advanced division arrived off the mouth of 
the Patapsco, a dozen miles from Baltimore. There others 
successively joined, until the whole force was reported on, 

1 Ante, page 16. 


the 22d to be three seventy-fours, with several frigates 
and smaller vessels, making a total of fifteen. The 
body of the fleet remained stationary, causing the city a 
strong anticipation of attack ; an impression conducing to 
retain there troops which, under a reasonable reliance upon 
adequate fortifications, might have been transferred to the 
probable scene of operations, sufficiently indicated by its 
intrinsic importance.* Warren now constituted a light 
squadron of two frigates, with a half-dozen smaller vessels, 
including some of those recently captured. These he 
placed in charge of Cockburn and despatched to the head 
of the bay. In addition to the usual crews there went 
about four hundred of the naval brigade, consisting of 
marines and seamen in nearly equal numbers. This, with 
a handful of army artillerists, was the entire force. With 
these Cockburn went first up the Elk River, where Wash- 
ington thirty years before had taken shipping on his way 
to the siege of York^town. At Frenchtown, notwithstand- 
ing a six-gun battery lately erected, a landing was effected 
on April 29, and a quantity of flour and army equipments 
were destroyed, together with five bay schooners. Many 
cattle were likewise seized ; Cockburn, in this and other 
instances, offering to pay in British government bills, 
provided no resistance was attempted in the neighborhood. 
From Frenchtown he went round to the Susquehanna, to 
obtain more cattle from an island, just below Havre de 
Grace ; but being there confronted on May 2 by an Amer- 
ican flag, hoisted over a battery at the town, he proceeded 
to attack the following day. A nominal resistance was 
made; but as the British loss, here and at Frenchtown, 
was one wounded on each occasion, no great cause for 
pride was left with the defenders. Holding the inhab- 
itants responsible for the opposition in their neighborhood, 
he determined to punish the town. Some houses were 
burned. The guns of the battery were then embarked; 

158 THE WAR OF 1812 

and during this process Cockburn himself, with a small 
party, marched three or four miles north of the place to a 
cannon foundry, where he destroyed the guns and material 
found, together with the buildings and machinery. 

" Our small division," he reported to Warren, " has 
been during the whole of this day on shore, in the centre 
of the enemy's country, and on his high road between Bal- 
timore and Philadelphia." The feat testified rather to the 
militaiy imbecility of the United States Government dur- 
ing the last decade than to any signal valor or enterprise 
on the part of the invaders. Enough and to spare of both 
there doubtless was among them ; for the expedition was 
of a kind continuously familiar to the British navy during 
the past twenty years, under far greater difficulty, in many 
parts of the world. Seeing the trifling force engaged, the 
mortification to Americans must be that no greater demand 
was made upon it for the display of its military virtues. 
Besides the destruction already mentioned, a division of 
boats went up the Susquehanna, destroyed five vessels and 
more flour; after which, "everything being completed to 
my utmost wishes, the division embarked and returned to 
the ships, after being twenty-two hours in constant exer- 
tion." From thence Cockburn went round to the Sassa- 
fras River, where a similar series of small injuries was 
inflicted, and two villages, Georgetown and Fredericks- 
town, were destroyed, in consequence of local resistance 
offered, by which five British were wounded. Assurance 
coming from several quarters that no further armed oppo- 
sition would be made, and as there was "now neither 
public property, vessels, nor warlike stores remaining in 
the neighborhood," the expedition returned down the bay, 
May 7, and regained the fleet.^ 

The history of the Delaware and its waters during this 

1 The official reports of Warren and Cockburn concerning these operation* 
are published in the Naval Chronicle, vol. xxx. pp. 162-168. 


period was very much the same as that of the Chesapeake ; 
except that, the water system of the lower bay being less 
extensive and practicable, and the river above narrower, 
there was not the scope for general marauding, nor the 
facility for systematic destruction, which constituted the 
peculiar exposure of the Chesapeake and gave Cockburn 
his opportunity. Xeither was there the same shelter from 
the sweep of the ocean, nor any naval establishment to 
draw attention. For these reasons, the Chesapeake natu- 
rally attracted much more active operations ; and Virginia, 
which formed so large a part of its coast-line, was the home 
of the President. She was also the leading member of the 
group of states which, in the internal contests of American 
politics, was generally thought to represent hatred to Great 
Britain and attachment to France. In both bays the 
American Government maintained flotillas of gunboats 
and small schooners, together with — in the Delaware at 
least — a certain number of great rowing barges, or gal- 
leys; but, although creditable energy was displayed, it is 
impossible to detect that, even in waters which might be 
thought suited to their particular qualities, these small 
craft exerted any substantial influence upon the. move- 
ments of the enemy. Their principal effect appears to have 
been to excite among the inhabitants a certain amount of 
unreasonable expectation, followed inevitably by similar 
unreasoning complaint. 

It is probable, however, that they to some extent re- 
stricted the movements of small foraging parties beyond 
the near range of their ships; and they served also the 
purpose of watching and reporting the dispositions of the 
British fleet. When it returned downwards from Cock- 
bum's expedition, it was followed by a division of these 
schooners and gunboats, under Captain Charles Gordon of 
the navy, who remained cruising for nearly a month below 
the Potomac, constantly sighting the enemy, but without 

160 ■ THE WAR OF 1812 

an opportunity offering for a blow to be struck under con- 
ditions favorable to either party. " The position taken by 
the enemy's ships," reported Gordon, "together with the 
constant protection given their small cruisers, particularly 
in the night, rendered any offensive operations on our part 
impracticable." ^ In the Delaware, a British corvette, run- 
ning upon a shoal with a falling tide, was attacked in this 
situation by a division of ten gunboats which was at hand. 
Such conditions were unusually favorable to them, and, 
though a frigate was within plain sight, she could not get 
within range on account of the shoalness of water; yet 
the two hours' action which followed did no serious injury 
to the grounded ship. Meantime one of the gunboats 
drifted from its position, and was swept by the tide out 
of supporting distance from its fellows. The frigate and 
sloop then manned boats, seven in number, pulled towards 
her, and despite a plucky resistance carried her; their 
largely superior numbers easily climbing on board her low- 
lying deck. Altliough the record of gunboats in all parts 
of the world is mostly unfruitful, some surprise cannot but 
be felt at the immunity experienced by a vessel aground 
under such circumstances.^ 

On May 13 Captain Stewart of the " Constellation " 
reported from Norfolk that the enemy's fleet had returned 
down the bay ; fifteen sail being at anchor in a line stretch- 
ing from Cape Henry to near Hampton Roads. Little had 
yet been done by the authorities to remedy the defenceless 
condition of the port, which he had deplored in his letter 
of March 17 ; and he apprehended a speedy attack either 
upon Hampton, on the north shore of the James River, 
important as commanding communications between Nor- 
folk and the country above, or upon Craney Island, cover- 

1 Captains' Letters, June 21, 1813. 

2 The American official account of this affair is given in Niles' Register, 
vol. iv. pp. 375, 422. James' Naval History, vol. vi. pp. 236-238, gives the 
British story. 


ing the entrance to the Elizabeth River, through the narrow 
channel of which the navy yard must be approached. 
There was a party now at work throwing up a battery on 
the island, on which five hundred troops were stationed, 
but he feared these preparations were begun too late. He 
had assigned seven gunboats to assist the defence. It 
was clear to his mind that, if Norfolk was their object, 
active operations would begin at one of these approaches, 
and not immediately about the place itself. ^Meanwhile, he 
would await developments, and postpone his departure to 
Boston, whither he had been ordered to command the 
" Constitution." 

Much to Stewart's surprise, considering the force of the 
enemy, which he, as a seaman, could estimate accurately 
and compare with what he knew to be the conditions con- 
fronting them, most of the British fleet soon after put to 
sea with the commander-in-chief, leaving Cockburn with 
one seventy-four and four frigates to hold the bay. This 
apparent abandonment, or at best concession of further 
time to Craney Island, aroused in him contempt as well 
as wonder. He had commented a month before on their 
extremely circumspect management ; " they act cautiously, 
and never separate so far from one another that they can- 
not in the course of a few hours give to each other support, 
by dropping down or running up, as the wind or tide 
serve," ^ Such precaution, however, was not out of place 
when confronted with the presence of gunboats capable of 
utiUzing calms and local conditions. To avoid exposure to 
useless injury is not to pass the bounds of military pru- 
dence. It was another matter to have brought so large a 
force, and to depart with no greater results than those of 
Frencbtown and Havre de Grace. " They do not appear 
disposed to put anything to risk, or to make an attack 
where they are likely to meet with opposition. Their con- 

1 Captains' Letters, April, 1813. 
TOL. II. — 11 

162 THE WAR OF 1812 

duct while in these waters has been highly disgraceful to 
their arms, and evinces the respect and dread they have 
for their opponents." ^ He added a circumstance which 
throws further light upon the well-known discontent of 
the British crews and their deterioration in quality, under a 
prolonged war and the confinement attending the impress- 
ment system. " Their loss in prisoners and deserters has 
been very considerable ; the latter are coming up to Norfolk 
almost daily, and their naked bodies are frequently fished 
up on the bay shore, where they must have been drowned 
in attempting to swim. They all give the same account of 
the dissatisfaction of their crews, and their detestation of 
the service they are engaged in."^ Deserters, however, 
usually have tales acceptable to those to whom they come. 

Whether Warren was judicious in postponing attack may 
be doubted, but he had not lost sight of the Admiralty's 
hint about American frigates. There were just two in the 
waters of the Chesapeake ; the " Constellation," 36, at 
Norfolk, and the " Adams," 24, Captain Charles Morris, 
in the Potomac. The British admiral had been notified 
that a division of troops would be sent to Bermuda, to be 
under his command for operations on shore, and he was 
now gone to fetch them. Early in June he returned, 
bringing these soldiers, two thousand six hundred and fifty 
in number.^ From his Gazette letters he evidently had in 
view the capture of Norfolk with the " Constellation " ; for 
when he designates Hampton and Craney Island as points 
of attack, it is because of their relations to Norfolk.* This 
justified the forecast of Stewart, who had now departed ; the 
command of the " Constellation " devolving soon after upon 
Captain Gordon. In connection with the military detach- 
ment intrusted to Warren, the Admiralty, while declining 

1 Captains' Letters, May 21, 1813. ^ ibid, 

8 James, Naval History (edition 1837), vol. vi. p. 231. 
* Warren's Gazette Lietters, here referred to, can be found in Naval 
Chronicle, vol. xxx. pp. 243, 245. 


to give particular directions as to its employment, wrote 
him : " Against a maritime country like America, the chief 
towns and establishments of which are situated upon navi- 
gable rivers, a force of the kind under your orders must 
necessarily be peculiarly formidable. ... In the choice of 
objects of attack, it will naturally occur to you that on 
every account any attempt which should have the effect of 
crippling the enemy's naval force should have a prefer- 
ence."^ Except for the accidental presence of Decatur's 
frigates in New London, as yet scarcely known to the 
British commander-in-chief, Norfolk, more than any other 
place, met this prescription of his Government. His 
next movements, therefore, may be considered as resulting 
directly from his instructions. 

The first occurrence was a somewhat prolonged engage- 
ment between a di\'ision of fifteen gunboats and the frigate 
" Junon," which, having been sent to destroy vessels at 
the mouth of the James River, was caught becalmed and 
alone in the upper part of Hampton Roads ; no other Brit- 
ish vessel being nearer than three miles. The cannonade 
continued for tlrree quarters of an hour, when a breeze 
springing up brought two of her consorts to the " Junon's " 
aid. The gunboats, incapable of close action with a single 
frigate in a working breeze, necessarily now retreated. 
They had suffered but slightly, one killed and two 
wounded; but retired with the confidence, always found 
in the accounts of such affairs, that they had inflicted great 
damage upon the enemy. The commander of a United 
States revenue cutter, lately captured, who was on board 
the frigate at the time, brought back word subsequently 
that she had lost one man killed and two or three wounded.^ 
The British official reports do not allude to the affair. As 

1 Croker to Warren, March 20, 1813. Admiralty Out-Letters, Records 

* Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 404. 

164 THE WAR OF 1812 

regards positive results, however, it may be affirmed with 
considerable assurance that the military value of gunboats 
in their day, as a measure of coast defence, was not what 
they effected, but the caution imposed upon the enemy 
by the apprehension of what they might effect, did this 
or that combination of circumstances occur. That the cir- 
cumstances actually almost never arose detracted little 
from this moral influence. The making to one's self a 
picture of possible consequences is a powerful factor in 
most military operations ; and the gunboat is not without 
its representative to-day in the sphere of imaginative 

The " Junon " business was a casual episode. Warren 
was already preparing for his attack on Craney Island. 
This little strip of ground, a half-mile long by two hundred 
yards across, lies within easy gunshot to the west of the 
Elizabeth River, a narrow channel- way, three hundred 
yards from edge to edge, which from Hampton Roads 
leads due south, through extensive flats, to Norfolk and 
Portsmouth. The navy yard is four miles above the 
island, on the west side of the river, the banks of which 
there have risen above the water. Up to and beyond 
Ci-aney Island the river-bed proper, though fairly clear, 
is submerged and hidden amid the surrounding expanse 
of shoal water. Good pilotage, therefore, is necessary, and 
incidental thereto the reduction beforehand of an enemy's 
positions commanding the approach. Of these Craney 
Island was the first. From it the flats which constitute the 
under-water banks of the Elizabeth extend north towards 
Hampton Roads, for a distance of two miles, and are not 
traversable by vessels powerful enough to act against bat- 
teries. For nearly half a mile the depth is less than 
four feet, while the sand immediately round the island 
was bare when the tide was out.^ Attack here was pos- 

1 The rise of the tide is about two and a half feet. 


sible only by boats armed with light cannon and carrying 
troops. On the west the island was separated from the 
mainland by a narrow strip of water, fordable by infantry 
at low tide. It was therefore determined to make a double 
assault, — one on the north, by fifteen boats, carrying, be- 
sides their crews, five hundred soldiers ; the other on the 
west, by a division eight hundred strong,^ to be landed 
four miles away, at the mouth of the Nansemond River. 
The garrison of the island numbered five hundred and 
eighty, and one hundred and fifty seamen were landed 
from the " Constellation " to man one of the principal 

The British plan labored under the difficulty that oppo- 
site conditions of tide were desirable for the two parties 
which were to act in concert. The front attack demanded 
high water, in order that under the impulse of the oars the 
boats might get as near as possible before they took the 
ground, whence the advance to the assault must be by 
wading. The flanking movement required low water, to 
facilitate passing the ford. Between the two, the hour 
was fixed for an ebbing tide, probably to allow for delays, 
and to assure the arrival of the infantry so as to profit by 
the least depth. At 11 A. m. of June 22 the boat division 
arrived off the northwest point of the island, opposite the 
battery manned by the seamen, in that day notoriously 
among the best of artillerists. A difference of opinion as 
to the propriety of advancing at all here showed itself 
among the senior naval officere ; for there will always be 
among seamen a dislike to operating over unknown ground 
with a falling tide. The captain in command, however, 
overruled hesitations ; doubtless feeling that in a combined 
movement the particular interest of one division must yield 

1 This is the number stated by James, the British naval historian, and is 
somewhat difficult to reconcile with Warren's expression, " the troops and a 
re-enforcement of seamen and marines from the ships." To be effective, the 
attack should have been in greater numbers. 

166 THE WAR OF 1812 

to the requirements of mutual support. A spirited for- 
ward dash was therefore made; but the guiding boat, 
sixty yards ahead of the others, grounded a hundred yards 
from the battery. One or two others, disregarding her 
signal, shared her mishap ; and two were sunk by the 
American fire. Under these circumstances a seaman, 
sounding with a boat hook, declared that he found along 
side three or four feet of slimy mud. This was considered 
decisive, and the attack was abandoned. 

The shore division had already retreated, having encoun- 
tered obstacles, the precise character of which is not stated. 
Warren's report simply said, " In consequence of the repre- 
sentation of the officer commanding the troops, of the 
difficulty of their passing over from the land, I considered 
that the persevering in the attempt would cost more men 
than the number with us would permit, as the other forts 
must have been stormed before the frigate and dockyard 
could be destroyed." The enterprise was therefore aban- 
doned at the threshold, because of probable ulterior difficul- 
ties, the degree of which it would require to-day unprofitable 
labor even to conjecture ; but reduced as the affair in its 
upshot was to an abortive demonstration, followed by no 
serious effort, it probably was not reckoned at home to 
have fulfilled the Admiralty's injunctions, that the char- 
acter as well as the interest of the country required certain 
results. The loss was trifling, — three killed, sixteen 
wounded, sixty-two missing.^ 

Having relinquished his purpose against Craney Island, 
and with it, apparently, all serious thought of the navy 
yard and the "Constellation," Warren next turned his 
attention to Hampton. On the early morning of June 26 
two thousand troops were landed to take possession of the 
place, which they did with slight resistance. Three stand 

1 The British story of this failure, outside the official despatches, is given in 
James' Naval History, vol. vi. pp. 232-234. 


of colors were captured and seven field guns, with their 
equipment and ammunition. The defences of the town 
were destroyed ; but as no further use was made of the ad- 
vantage gained, the affair amounted to nothing more than 
an illustration on a larger scale of the guerilla depredation 
carried on on all sides of the Chesapeake. With it ended 
Warren's attempts against Norfolk. His force may have 
been really inadequate to more ; certainly it was far smaller 
than was despatched to the same quai-ter the following 
year; but the Admiralty probably was satisfied by this 
time that he had not the enterprise necessary for his posi- 
tion, and a successor was appointed during the following 

For two months longer the British fleet as a whole re- 
mained in the bay, engaged in desultory operations, which 
had at least the effect of greatly increasing their local 
knowledge, and in so far facilitating the more serious 
undertakings of the next season. The Chesapeake was not 
so much blockaded as occupied. On June 29 Captain 
Cassin of the navy yard reported that six sail of the line, 
with four frigates, were at the mouth of the Elizabeth, and 
that the day before a squadron of thirteen — frigates, brigs, 
and schooners — had gone ten mUes up the James, causing 
the inhabitants of Smithfield and the surroundings to fly 
from their homes, terrified by the transactions at Hampton. 
The lighter vessels continued some distance farther towards 
Eichmond. A renewal of the attack was naturally ex- 
pected ; but on July 11 the fleet quitted Hampton Roads, 
and again ascended the Chesapeake, leaving a division of 
ten saU in Lynnhaven Bay, under Cape Henry. Two days 
later the main body entered the Potomac, in which, as has 
before been mentioned, was the frigate " Adams " ; but she 
lay above the Narrows, out of reach of such efforts as 
Warren was willing to risk. He went as high as Blakiston 
Island, twenty-five to thirty miles from the river's mouth, 

168 THE WAR OF 1812 

and from there Cockburn, with a couple of frigates and 
two smaller vessels, tried to get beyond the Kettle Bottom 
Shoals, an intricate bit of navigation ten miles higher up, 
but still below the Narrows.^ Two of his detachment, 
however, took the ground ; and the enterprise of approach- 
ing Washington by this route was for that time abandoned. 
A year afterwards it was accomplished by Captain Gordon, 
of the British Navy, who carried two frigates and a division 
of bomb vessels as far as Alexandria. 

Two United States gunboats, "The Scorpion" and 
" Asp," lying in Yeocomico River, a shallow tributary of 
the Potomac ten miles from the Chesapeake, were surprised 
there July 14 by the entrance of the enemy. Getting under 
way hastily, the " Scorpion " succeeded in reaching the 
main stream and retreating up it ; but the " Asp," being 
a bad sailer, and the wind contrary, had to go back. She 
was pursued by boats ; and although an attack by three was 
beaten off, she was subsequently carried when they were re- 
enforced to five. Her commander. Midshipman Sigourney, 
was killed, and of the twenty-one in her crew nine were 
either killed or wounded. The assailants were consider- 
ably superior in numbers, as they need to be in such 
undertakings. They lost eight. This was the second 
United States vessel thus captured in the Chesapeake this 
year ; the revenue cutter " Surveyor " having been taken 
in York River, by the boats of the frigate " Narcissus," on 
the night of June 12. In the latter instance, the sword of 
the commander, who survived, was returned to him the 
next day by the captor, with a letter testifying " an admira- 
tion on the part of your opponents, such as I have seldom 
witnessed, for your gallant and desperate attempt to defend 
your vessel against more than double your numbers." ^ 

1 Report of the commander of the " Scorpion " to Captain Morris, July 21, 
1813. Captains' Letters. 

2 This letter, from the commanding officer of the " Narcissus," is in Niles' 
Register, vol. iv. p. 279. 


Trivial in themselves as these affairs were, it is satisfactory 
to notice that in both the honor of the flag was upheld with 
a spirit which is worth even more than victory. Sigourney 
had before received the commendation of Captain Morris, 
no mean judge of an officer's merits. 

The British fleet left the Potomac July 21, and went on 
up the ba}", spreading alarm on every side. Morris, with 
a body of seamen and marines, was ordered from the 
" Adams " to AnnapoHs, the capital of Maryland, on the 
River Severn, to command the defences. These he re- 
ported, on August 13, to be in the " miserable condition " 
characteristic of all the national preparations to meet hos- 
tilities. With a view to entering, the enemy was sounding 
the bar, an operation which frequently must be carried 
on beyond protection by ships' guns ; " but we have no 
floatino' force to molest them." The bulk of the fleet was 
above the Severn, as were both admirals, and Morris found 
their movements " contradictory, as usual." ^ As many as 
twenty sail had at one time been visible from the state- 
house dome in the city. On August 8, fifteen, three of 
which were seventy-fours, were counted from North Point, 
at the mouth of the Patapsco, on which Baltimore lies. 
Kent Island, on the eastern shore of the bay abreast An- 
napolis, was taken possession of, and occupied for some 
days. At the same period attacks were reported in other 
quarters on that side* of the Chesapeake, as elsewhere in 
the extensive basin penetrated by its tributaries. The 
prosecution of these various enterprises was attended with 
the usual amount of scuffling encounter, which associates 
itself naturally with coastwise warfare of a guerilla charac- 
ter. The fortune of war inclined now to one side, now to 
the other, in the particular cases ; but in the general there 
could be no doubt as to which party was getting the worst, 
undergoing besides almost all the suffering and quite all 

1 Morris to Navy Department, August 13, 23, and 27. Captains' Letters. 

170 THE WAR OF 1812 

the harassment. This is the necessary penalty of the 
defensive, when inadequate. 

Throughout most of this summer of conflict there went 
on, singularly enough, a certain amount of trade by licensed 
vessels, neutral and American, which passed down Chesa- 
peake Bay and went to sea. Doubtless the aggregate 
amount of traffic thus maintained was inconsiderable, as 
compared with normal conditions, but its allowance by 
either party to the war is noticeable, — by the British, 
because of the blockade declared by them ; by the Ameri- 
cans, because of the evident inexpediency of permitting 
to depart vessels having full knowledge of conditions, and 
almost certain to be boarded by the enemy. Sailing from 
blockaded ports is of course promoted in most instances 
by the nation blockaded, for it is in support of trade ; and 
with the sea close at hand, although there is risk, there is 
also chance of safe passage through a belt of danger, rela- 
tively narrow and entered at will. The case is quite dif- 
ferent where a hazardous navigation of sixty to a hundred 
miles, increasing in intricacy at its further end, and lined 
throughout with enemy's cruisers, interposes before the sea 
is reached. The difficulty here is demonstrated by the fact 
that the " Adams," a ship by no means large or exception- 
ally fettered by navigational difficulties, under a young 
captain burning to exercise his first command in war, 
waited four months, even after the bulk of the enemy's 
fleet had gone, before she was able to get through ; and 
finally did so only under such conditions of weather as 
caused her to miss her way and strike bottom. 

The motive of the British for collusion is clear. The 
Chesapeake was the heart of the wheat and flour produc- 
tion of the United States, and while some j)rovision had 
been made for meeting the wants of the West Indies, and 
of the armies in Canada and Spain, by refraining from 
commercial blockade of Boston and other eastern ports. 


these necessary food supplies reached those places only 
after an expensive transport which materially increased 
their price ; the more as they were carried by land to the 
point of exportation, it not suiting the British policy to con- 
nive at coasting trade even for tliat purpose. A neutral 
or licensed vessel, sailing from the Chesapeake with flour 
for a port friendly to the United States, could be seized 
under cover of the commercial blockade, which she was 
violating, sent to Halifax, and condemned for her technical 
offence. The cargo then was available for transport whither 
required, the whole transaction being covered by a veil of 
legahty; but it is plain that the risks to a merchant, in 
attempting honcL fide to run a blockade like that of Chesa- 
peake Bay, exceeded too far any probable gain to have 
been undertaken without some assurance of compensation, 
which did not appear on the surface. 

Taken in connection with intelligence obtained by this 
means, the British motive is apparent ; but why did the 
United States administration tolerate procedures which be- 
trayed its counsels, and directly helped to sustain the 
enemy's war? Something perhaps is due to executive 
weakness in a government constituted by popular vote ; 
more, probably, at least during the period when immediate 
military danger did not threaten, to a wish to frustrate the^ 
particular advantage reaped by New England, through its 
exemption from the restrictions of the commercial block- 
ade. When breadstuffs were pouring out of the country 
through the coast-line of a section which gloried in its oj>- 
position to the war,^ and lost no opportunity to renew the 

^ Captain Hayes, of the " Majestic," in charge of the blockade of Boston, 
wrote to Warren, October 25, 1813: "Almost every vessel I meet has a 
license, or is under a neutral flag. Spanish, Portuguese, and Swedes are 
passing in and out by hundreds, and licensed vessels out of number from the 
West Indies. I find the licenses are sent blank to be filled up in Boston. This 
is of course very convenient, and the Portuguese consul is said to be making 
quite a trade of that flag, covering the property and furnishing the necessary 
papers for any person at a thousand dollars a ship." Canadian Archives, M. 
389. 3. p. 189." 

172 THE WAR OF 1812 

declaration of its disapproval and its criticism of the Gov- 
ernment, it was at least natural, perhaps even expedient, 
to wink at proceedings which transferred elsewhere some 
of the profits, and did not materially increase the advan- 
tage of the enemy. But circumstances became very differ- 
ent when a fleet appeared in the bay, the numbers and 
action of which showed a determination to carry hostile 
operations wherever conditions permitted. Then, betrayal 
of such conditions by passing vessels became an unbearable 
evil ; and at the same time the Administration had forced 
upon its attention the unpleasant but notorious fact that, 
by the active complicity of many of its own citizens, not 
only the flour trade continued, but the wants of the block- 
ading squadrons along the coast were being supplied. 
Neutrals, real or pretended, and coasting vessels, assuming 
a lawful destination, took on board cattle, fresh vegetables, 
and other stores acceptable to ships confined to salt pro- 
visions, and either went direct to enemy's ports or were 
captured by collusion. News was received of contracts 
made by the British admiral at Bermuda for fresh beef to 
be supplied from American ports, by American dealers, 
in American vessels ; while Halifax teemed with similar 
transactions, without serious attempt at concealment. 
4 Such aid and comfort to an enemy is by no means unex- 
ampled in the history of war, particularly where one of the 
belligerents is shrewdly commercial ; but it is scarcely too 
much to say that it attained unusual proportions at this 
time in the United States, and was countenanced by a 
public opinion which was more than tolerant, particularly 
in New England, where the attitude of the majority towards 
the Government approached hostility. As a manifesta- 
tion of contemporary national character, of unwillingness 
to subordinate personal gain to pubhc welfare, to loyalty 
to country, it was pitiable and shameful, particularly as 
it affected large communities ; but its instructive sig- 


nificance at this time is the evidence it gives that forty 
years of confederation, nearly twenty-five being of the 
closer union under the present Constitution, had not yet 
welded the people into a whole, or created a conscious- 
ness truly national. The capacity for patriotism was there, 
and readiness to suffer for patriotic cause had been demon- 
strated by the War of Independence; but the mass of 
Americans had not yet risen sufiiciently above local tradi- 
tions and interests to discern clearly the noble ideal of 
national unitj", and vagueness of apprehension resulted 
inevitably in lukewarmness of sentiment. This condition 
^oes far to palliate actions which it cannot excuse; the 
reproach of helping the enemies of one's coimtry is some- 
what less when the nation itself has scarcely emerged to 
recognition, as it afterwards did under the inspiring watch- 
-word, " The Union." 

The necessity to control these conditions of clandestine 
intercourse found official expression in a message of the 
President to Congress, July 20, 1813,^ recommending "an 
immediate and effectual prohibition of all exports" for a 
limited time ; subject to removal by executive order, in 
case the commercial blockade were raised. A summary of 
the conditions above related was given, as a cause for action. 
The President's further comment revealed the continuity 
of thought and policy which dictated his recommendation, 
and connected the proposed measure with the old series of 
commercial restrictions, associated with his occupancy of 
the State Department under Jefferson's administration. 
" The system of the enemy, combining with the blockade 
of our ports special hcenses to neutral vessels, and insid- 
ious discrimination between different ports of the United 
States, if not counteracted, will have the effect of dimin- 
ishing very materially the pressure of the war on the enemy, 
and encourage perseverance in it, and at the same time will 

1 Annals of Congress, 1813-1814, vol. i. p. 500. 

174 ' THE WAR OF 1812 

leave the general commerce of the United States under all 
the pressure the enemy can impose, thus subjecting the 
whole to British regulation, in subserviency to British 

The House passed a bill meeting the President's sugges- 
tions, but it was rejected by the Senate on July 28. The 
Executive then fell back on its own war powers ; and on 
July 29 the Secretary of the Navy, by direction of the 
President, issued a general order to all naval officers in 
command, calling attention to " the palpable and criminal 
intercourse held with the enemy's forces blockading and 
invading the waters of the United States." " This inter- 
course," he explicitly added, " is not only carried on by 
foreigners, under the specious garb of friendly flags, who 
convey provisions, water, and succors of all kinds (osten- 
sibly destined for friendly ports, in the face, too, of a de- 
clared and rigorous blockade),^ direct to the fleets and 
stations of the enemy, with constant intelligence of our 
naval and military force and preparation, . . . but the 
same traffic, intercourse, and intelligence is carried on 
with great subtlety and treachery by profligate citizens, 
who, in vessels ostensibly navigating our own waters, from 
port to port [coasters], find means to convey succors or 
intelligence to the enemy, and elude the penalty of law." ^ 
Officers were therefore instructed to arrest all vessels, the 
movements or situation of which indicated an intention to 
effect any of the purposes indicated. 

A similar order was issued, August 5, by the War Depart- 
ment to army officers.^ In accordance with his instructions. 
Captain Morris of the " Adams," on July 29 or 30, stopped 
the ship " Monsoon," from Alexandria. Her agent wrote a 
correspondent in Boston that, when the bill failed in the 

1 This parenthesis shows that the censures were not directed against New 
England only, for the blockade so far declared did not extend thither. 

2 Niles' Register, vol. iv. pp. 370, 386. s Hjjd.^ p, 337. 


Senate, he had had no doubt of her being allowed to pro- 
ceed, " but the Secretary and Mr. Madison have made a 
sort of embargo, or directed the stoppage of vessels." ^ He 
added that another brig was lying in the river ready loaded, 
but held by the same order. Morris's indorsement on the 
ship's papei-s shows the barefacedness of the transaction. 
" Whereas the within-mentioned ship ' Monsoon ' is laden 
with flour, and must pass witliin the control of the enemy's 
squadron now within, and blockading Chesapeake Bay, if 
she be allowed to proceed on her intended voyage, and as 
the enemy might derive from her such intelligence and 
succor as would be serviceable to themselves and injurious 
to the United States, I forbid her proceeding while the 
enemy shall be so disposed as to prevent a reasonable pos- 
sibility of her getting to sea without falling into their pos- 
session." 2 At this writing the British had left the Potomac 
itself, and the most of them were above. A week later, at 
Charleston, a ship called the " Caroline " was visited by a 
United States naval officer, and found with a license from 
Cockburn to carry a cargo, free from molestation by Brit- 
ish cruisers,^ "With flour at Lisbon 813 per barrel, no sale, 
and at Halifax $20, in deinand,'''' queries a Baltimore paper 
of the day, " where would all the vessels that would in a 
few days have been off from Alexandria have gone, if the 
' Monsoon ' had not been stopped ? They would have been 
captured and sent to Hahfax." * 

Morris's action was in accordance with the Secretary's 
order, and went no further than to stop a voyage which, in 
view of the existing proclaimed blockade, and of the great 
British force at hand, bore collusion on its face. The 
President's request for legislation, which Congress had 
denied, went much further. It was a recurrence, and the 
last, to the policy of commercial retahation, fostered by 

* Niles' Register, vol. iv. p. 387. 2 ibid., p. 402. 

' Ibi-1. * Ibid. Author's italics. 

176 THE WAR OF 1812 

himself and Jefferson in preference to armed resistance. 
By such measures in peace, and as far as commercial pros- 
perity was concerned, they had opened the nation's veins 
without vindicating its self-respect. The military value of 
food supplies to the enemy in Canada and on the coast, 
however, could not be contested ; and during the recess of 
Congress it received emphasis by a Canadian embargo upon 
the export of grain. Hence, at the next session the Presi- 
dent's recommendation of July was given attention, and 
there was passed almost immediately — December 17, 1813, 
— a sweeping embargo law, applicable not only to external 
commerce but to coasters. As this ended the long series of 
commercial restrictions, so was it also of limited duration 
as compared with them, being withdrawn the following 

By the Act of December 17, as interpreted by the 
Treasury, foreign merchant vessels might depart with 
cargoes already laden, except provisions and military 
stores, which must be relanded; but nothing could be 
shipped that was not already on board when the Act was 
received. Coasters, even for accustomed voyages, could 
obtain clearances only by permission from the President ; 
and the rules for such permission, given through the col- 
lectors, were extremely stringent. In no case were the 
vessels permitted to leave interior waters, proceeding from 
one sound or bay to another, and be " at sea " for even a 
short distance ; nor were they to be permitted to carry any 
provisions, or supplies useful to an enemy, if there was 
the slightest chance of their falling into his power. It 
would appear that the orders of July 29 had been al- 
lowed to lapse after the great body of the British left 
the Chesapeake ; for Morris, still in the Potomac, acknowl- 
edging the receipt of this Act on December 20, writes: 
" There are several vessels below us in the river with 
flour. I have issued orders to the gunboats to detain 


them, and as soon as tlie wind will permit, shall proceed 
with this ship, to give all possible effect to the Act." 
Six days afterwards, ha^dng gone down as he intended, he 
found the British anchored off the mouth of the stream, 
at a point where the bay is little more than five miles wide. 
" Two American brigs passed down before us, and I have 
every reason to believe threw themselves into the enemy's 
hands last Wednesday." ^ 

On September 6 the principal part of the British fleet 
quitted Chesapeake Bay for the season ; leaving behind a 
ship of the line with some smaller vessels, to enforce the 
blockade. Viewed as a military campaign, to sustain the 
character as well as the interests of the country, its oper- 
ations cannot be regarded as successful. With overwhelm- 
ing numbers, and signally favored by the quiet inland 
waters with extensive ramifications which characterized 
the scene of war, the results, though on a more extensive 
scale, differed nothing in kind from the hai-assment inflicted 
all along the coast from Maine to Georgia, by the squad- 
rons cruising outside. Ample demonstration was indeed 
afforded, there as elsewhere, of the steady, remorseless, 
far-reaching effect of a predominant sea power; and is 
confirmed explicitly by an incidental remark of the Russian 
minister at Washington writing to Warren, April 4, 1813, 
concerning an armistice, in connection with the abortive 
Russian proffer of mediation. ^ Even at this early period, 
*' It would be almost impossible to establish an armistice, 
without raising the blockade, since the latter does them 
more harm than all the hostilities." ^ But in direct 
miUtary execution the expedition had undoubtedly fallen 
far short of its opportunity, afforded by the wretchedly 
unprepared state of the region against which it had been 

1 Morris to Navy Department, Dec. 20 and 26, 1813. Captains' Letters. 

2 Post, chapter xviii. 

« British Records Office, Secret Papers MSS. 

TOL. II.— 12 

178 THE WAR OF 1812 

sent. Whether the fault lay with the commander-in-chief, 
or with the Admiralty for insufi&cient means given him, 
is needless here to inquire. The squadron remaining 
through the winter perpetuated the isolation of Norfolk 
from the upper bay, and barred the " Constellation " and 
" Adams " from the sea. Ammunition and stores had to 
be brought by slow and unwieldly transportation from the 
Potomac across country, and it was not till January 18, 
1814, that the "Adams " got away. Two attempts of the 
" Constellation " a month later were frustrated. 

The principal two British divisions, the action of which 
has so far been considered, the one blockading the Chesa- 
peake, the other watching Decatur's squadron in New Lon- 
don, marked the extremities of what may be considered the 
central section of the enemy's coastwise operations upon the 
Atlantic. Although the commercial shipping of the United 
States belonged largely to New England, much the greater 
part of the exports came from the district thus closed to 
the world; and within it also, after the sailing of the 
"President" and "Congress" from Boston, and the cap- 
ture of the " Chesapeake," lay in 1813 all the bigger vessels 
of the navy, save the " Constitution." 

In the conditions presented to the enemy, the sections 
of the coast-line south of Virginia, and north of Cape 
Cod, differed in some important respects from the central 
division, and from each other. There was in them no 
extensive estuary wide open to the sea, resembling Chesa- 
peake and Delaware bays, and Long Island Sound, ac- 
cessible to vessels of all sizes; features which naturally 
determined upon these points the chief effort of a maritime 
enemy, enabling him readily to paralyze the whole system 
of intercourse depending upon them, domestic as well as 
foreign. The southern waters abounded indeed in internal 
coastwise communications; not consecutive throughout, 
but continuous for long reaches along the shores of North 


and South Carolina and Georgia. These, however, were 
narrow, and not easily approached. Behind the sea islands, 
which inclose this navigation, small craft can make their 
voyages sheltered from the perils of the sea, and protected 
in great measure from attack other than by boats or very 
light cruisers ; to which, moreover, some local knowledge 
was necessary, for crossing the bars, or threading the 
channels connecting sound with sound. Into these inside 
basins empty numerous navigable rivers, which promoted 
intercourse, and also furnished lines of retreat from danger 
coming from the sea. Coupled with these conditions was 
the fact that the United States had in these quarters no 
naval establishment, and no naval vessels of force. Defence 
was intrusted wholly to gunboats, with three or four armed 
schooners of somewhat larger tonnage. American offensive 
operation, confined here as elsewhere to commerce destroy- 
ing, depended entirely on privateers. Into these ports, 
where there were no public facilities for repair, not even a 
national sloop of war entered until 1814 was well advanced. 
Prior to the war, one third of the domestic export of 
the United States had issued from this southern section ; 
and in the harassed year 1813 this ratio increased. The 
aggregate for the whole country was reduced by one half 
from that of 1811, and amounted to little more than one 
fourth of the prosperous times preceding Jefferson's em- 
bargo of 1808, with its vexatious progeny of restrictive 
measures ; but the proportion of the South increased. 
The same was observable in the IMiddle states, containing 
the great centres of New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. 
There a ratio to the total, of a little under fifty per cent, 
rose to something above that figure. The relative diminu- 
tion, corresponding to the increases just noted, fell upon 
New England, and is interesting because of what it indi- 
cates. Before the war the export of domestic produce from 
the eastern ports was twenty per cent of the national total ; 

180 THE WAR OF 1812 

in 1813 it fell to ten per cent. When the domestic export 
is taken in conjunction with the re-exportation of foreign 
products, the loss of New England is still more striking. 
From twenty-five per cent of the whole national export, 
domestic and foreign, she now fell to ten per cent of the 
diminished total. When it is remembered that throughout 
1813 the Eastern ports alone were open to neutral ships, no 
commercial blockade of them having yet been instituted, 
these results are the more noticeable. 

The general explanation is that the industries of the 
United States at that time divided into two principal 
classes, — agricultural and maritime ; the former of which 
supplied the material for commerce, while the latter fur- 
nished transportation for whatever surplus of production 
remained for export. Manufactures sufficed only for home 
demands, being yet in a state of infancy; forced, in fact, 
upon an unwilling New England by the policy of commer- 
cial restriction which drove her ships off the sea. Domestic 
products for export therefore meant almost wholly the yield 
of the fields, the forests, and the fisheries. The latter be- 
longed to New England, but they fell with the war. Her 
soil did not supply grain enough to feed her people ; and 
her domestic exports, therefore, were reduced to shipments 
of wheat and flour conveyed to her by inland transportation 
from the more fertile, but blockaded, regions to the south- 
ward. Despite the great demand for provisions in Halifax 
and the St. Lawrence region, and the facility for egress by 
sea, through the absence of blockade, the slowness and cost 
of land carriage brought forward an insufficient supply, and 
laid a heavy charge upon the transaction ; while the license 
system of the British, modifying this condition of things 
to their own advantage, by facilitating exports from the 
Chesapeake, certainly did operate, as the President's mes- 
sage said, to regulate American commerce in conformity 
with British interests. 


The re-exportation of foreign produce had once played a 
very large paii; in the foreign trade of New England. This 
item consisted chiefly in West India commodities ; and al- 
though, owing to several causes, it fell off very much in 
the years between 1805 and 1811, it had remained still 
considerable. It was, however, particularly obnoxious to 
British interests, as then understood by British statesmen 
and people ; and since it depended entirely upon American 
ships, — for it was not to the interest of a neutral to bring 
sugar and coffee to an American port merely to carry it 
away again, — it disappeared entirely when the outbreak 
of war rendered all American merchant vessels liable 
to capture. In fact, as far as the United States was 
concerned, although this re-exportation appeared among 
commercial returns, it was not an interest of commerce, 
accurately so called, but of navigation, of carrying trade. 
It had to do with ships, not with cargoes; its gain was 
that of the wagoner. Still, the loss by the idleness of the 
ships, due to the war, may be measured in terms of the 
cargoes. In 1805 New England re-expoi-ted foreign pro- 
du(^ to the amount of 815,621,484; in 1811, 85,944,121; 
in 1813, no more than 8302,781. It remains to add that, 
as can be readily understood, all export, whether of foreign 
or domestic produce, was chiefly by neutrals, which were 
not liable to capture so long as there was no blockade 
proclaimed. From December 1 to 24, 1813, forty-four 
vessels cleared from Boston for abroad, of which five only 
were American s.^ 

Under the very reduced amount of their commercial 
movement, the tonnage of the Middle and Southern states 
was more than adequate to their local necessities ; and they 
now had no need of the aid which in conditions of normal 
prosperity they received from the Eastern shipping. The 
latter, therefore, having lost its usual local occupation, 

1 Nfles' Register, voL v. p. 311. 

182 THE WAR OF 1812 

and also the office it had filled towards the other sections 
of the Union, was either left idle or turned perforce to pri- 
vateering, September 7, 1813, there were in Boston har- 
bor ninety-one ships, two barks, one hundred and nine 
brigs, and forty-three schooners ; total, two hundred and 
forty-five, besides coasters. The accumulation shows the 
lack of employment. December 15, two hundred square- 
rigged vessels were laid up in Boston alone.^ Insurance on 
American vessels was stated to be fifty per cent.^ 

Whether tonnage to any large amount was transferred 
to a neutral flag, as afterwards so much American shipping 
was during the Civil War, I have not ascertained. It was 
roundly intimated that neutral flags were used to cover the 
illicit intercourse with the enemy before mentioned ; but 
whether by regular transfer or by fraudulent papers does 
not appear. An officer of the frigate " Congress," in her 
"unprofitable voyage just mentioned, says that after parting 
with the " President," she fell in with a few licensed Ameri- 
cans and a great number of Spaniards and Portuguese.^ The 
flags of these two nations, and of Sweden, certainly abounded 
to an abnormal extent, and did much of the traffic ft-om 
America; but it seems unlikely that there was at that 
particular epoch any national commerce, other than British, 
at once large enough, and sufficiently deficient in ship- 
ping of its own, to absorb any great number of Ameri- 
cans. In truth, the commerce of the world had lost pretty 
much all its American component, because this, through a 
variety of causes, had come to consist chiefly of domestic 
agricultural products, which were thrown back upon the 
nation's hands, and required no carriers ; the enemy having 
closed the gates against them, except so far as suited his 
own purposes. The disappearance of American merchant 
ships from the high seas corresponded to the void occasioned 

1 The Columbian Centinel, Boston, Sept. 7 and Dec. 15, 1813. 

2 Ibid., Dec. 18. 8 ibid. 


by the blockade of American staples of commerce. The 
only serious abatement from this generalization arises from 
the British system of licenses, permitting the egress of cer- 
tain articles useful to themselves. 

The results from the conditions above analyzed are re- 
flected in the returns of commerce, in the movements of 
American coasters, and in the consequent dispositions of 
the enemy. In the Treasur}^ year ending September 30, 
1813, the value of the total exports from the Eastern states 
was 83,049,022; from the Middle section, $17,513,930; 
from the South, $7,293,043. Virginia is here reckoned 
with the Middle, because her exports found their way out 
by the Chesapeake ; and this appreciation is commercial and 
military in character, not political or social. While this 
was the state of foreign trade under war conditions, the 
effect of local circumstances upon coasting is also to be 
noticed. The Middle section, characterized by the great 
estuaries, and by the description of its products, — grain 
primarily, and secondly tobacco, — was relatively self-suffic- 
ing and compact. Its growth of food, as has been seen, was 
far in excess of its wants, and the distance by land between 
the extreme centres of distribution, from tide-water to tide- 
water, was comparatively short. From New York to Balti- 
more by road is but four fifths as far as from New York to 
Boston ; and at Xew York and Baltimore, as at Boston, water 
communication was again reached for the great lines of dis- 
tribution from either centre. In fact, traffic from New York 
southward needed to go no farther than Elk River, forty 
miles short of Baltimore, to be in touch with the whole 
Chesapeake system. Philadelphia lies half-way between 
New York and Baltimore, approximately a hundred miles 
from each. 

The extremes of the Middle section of the country 
were thus comparatively independent of coastwise traffic 
for mutual intercourse, and the character of their coasts 

184 THE WAR OF 1812 

co-operated to reduce the disposition to employ coasters in 
war. From the Chesapeake to Sandy Hook the shore-line 
sweeps out to sea, is safely approachable by hostile naviga- 
tors, and has for refuge no harbors of consequence, except 
the Delaware. The local needs of the little communities 
along the beaches might foster a creeping stream of very 
small craft, for local supply ; but as a highway, for inter- 
course on a large scale, the sea here was too exposed for use, 
when taken in connection with the facility for transport 
by land, which was not only short but with comparatively 
good roads. 

In war, as in other troublous times, prices are subject to 
complicated causes of fluctuation, not always separable. 
Two great staples, flour and sugar, however, may be taken 
to indicate with some certainty the effects of impeded water 
transport. From a table of prices current, of August, 1813, it 
appears that at Baltimore, in the centre of the wheat export, 
flour was $6.00 per barrel ; in Philadephia, $7.50 ; in New 
York, $8.50 ; in Boston, $11.87. At Richmond, equally 
well placed with Baltimore as regarded supplies, but with 
inferior communications for disposing of its surplus, the 
price was $4.00. Removing from the grain centre in the 
other direction, flour at Charleston is reported at $8.00 — 
about the same as New York ; at Wilmington, North 
Carolina, $10.25. Not impossibly, river transportation had 
in these last some cheapening effect, not readily ascertain- 
able now. In sugar, the scale is seen to ascend in an 
inverse direction. At Boston, unblockaded, it is quoted 
at $18.75 the hundredweight, itself not a low rate ; at New 
York, blockaded, $21.50; at Philadelphia, with a longer 
journey, $22.50 ; at Baltimore, $26.50 ; at Savannah, $20. 
In the last named place, nearness to the Florida line, with 
the inland navigation, favored smuggling and safe trans- 
portation. The price at New Orleans, a sugar-producing 
district, $9.00, affords a standard by which to measure the 


cost of carriage at that time. Flour in the same city, on 
February 1, 1813, was $25 the barrel. 

In both articles the jump between Boston and New York 
suggests forcibly the harassment of the coasting trade. It 
manifests either diminution of supply, or the effect of more 
expensive conveyance by land; possibly both. The case 
of the southern seaboard cities was similar to that of 
Boston ; for it will not be overlooked that, as the more 
important food products came from the middle of the 
country, they would be equally available for each extreme. 
The South was the more remote, but this was compensated 
in some degree by better internal water communications ; 
and its demand also was less, for the white population was 
smaller and less wealthy than that of New England. The 
local product, rice, also went far to supply deficiencies in 
other grains. In the matter of manufactured goods, how- 
ever, the disadvantage of the South was greater. These 
had to find their way there from the farther extreme of 
the land ; for the development of manufactures had been 
much the most marked in the east. It has before been 
quoted that some wagons loaded with dry goods were 
forty-six days in accomplishing the journey from Phila- 
delphia to Georgetown, South Carolina, in May of this 
year. Some relief in these articles reached the South 
by smuggling across the Florida line, and the Spanish 
waters opposite St. Mary's were at this time thronged 
with merchimt shipping to an unprecedented extent; for 
although smuggling was continual, in peace as in war, 
across a river frontier of a hundred miles, the stringent 
demand consequent upon the interruption of coastwise 
traffic provoked an increased supply. " The trade to 
Amelia," — the northernmost of the Spanish sea-islands, 
— reported the United States naval officer at St. Mary's 
towards the end of the war, *' is immense. Upwards of 
fifty square-rigged vessels are now in that port under 

186 THE WAR OF 18W 

Swedish, Russian, and Spanish colors, two thirds of which 
are considered British property."^ It was the old story 
of the Continental and License systems of the Napoleonic 
struggle, re-enacted in America; and, as always, the in- 
habitants on both sides the line co-operated heartily in 
beating the law. 

The two great food staples chosen sufficiently indicate 
general conditions as regards communications from centre 
to centre. Upon this supervened the more extensive and 
intricate problem of distribution from the centres. This 
more especially imparted to the Eastern and Southern coasts 
the particular characteristics of coasting trade and coast 
warfare, in which they differ from the Middle states. 
These form the burden of the letters from the naval cap- 
tains commanding the stations at Charleston, Savannah, 
and Portsmouth, New Hampshire; nor is it without sig- 
nificance that Bainbridge at Boston, not a way port, but 
a centre, displayed noticeably less anxiety than the others 
about this question, which less touched his own command. 
Captain Hull, now commanding the Portsmouth Yard, 
writes, June 14, 1813, that light cruisers like the " Siren," 
lately arrived at Boston, and the " Enterprise," then with 
him, can be very useful by driving away the enemy's small 
vessels and privateers which have been molesting the coast- 
ing trade. He purposes to order them eastward, along the 
Maine coast, to collect coasters in convoy and protect their 
long-shore voyages, after the British fashion on the high 
seas. " The coasting trade here," he adds, " is immense. 
Not less than fifty sail last night anchored in this harbor, 
bound to Boston and other points south. The ' Nautilus ' 
[a captured United States brig] has been seen from this 
harbor every week for some time past, and several other 
enemy's vessels are on the coast every few days." An 
American privateer has just come in, bringing with her as 

1 Campbell to the Navy Department, Nov. 11, 1814. Captains' Letters. 


a prize one of her own class, called the " Liverpool Packet," 
which " within six months has taken from us property to 
an immense amount." ^ 

Ten days later Hull's prospects have darkened. There 
has appeared off Portsmouth a blockading division ; a fri- 
gate, a sloop, and two brigs. " When our two vessels were 
first ordered to this station, I believed they would be very 
useful in protecting the coasting trade; but the enemy's 
cruisers are now so much stronger that we can hardly 
promise security to the trade, if we undertake to convoy 
it." On the contraiy, the brigs themselves would be 
greatly hazarded, and resistance to attack, if supported 
•by the neighborhood, may entail destruction upon ports 
where they have taken refuge ; a thought possibly sug- 
gested by Cockburn's action at Havre de Grace and 
Frenchtown. He therefore now proposes that they should 
run the blockade and cruise at sea. This course was 
eventually adopted; but for the moment the Secretary 
wrote that, while he perceived the propriety of Hull's 
remarks, " the call for protection on that coast has been 
very loud, and having sent those vessels for that special 
purpose, I do not now incline immediately to remove 
them."^ It was necessary to bend to a popular clamor, 
which in this case did not, as it very frequently does, make 
unreasonable demands and contravene all considerations of 
military wisdom. A month later Hull reports the block- 
ade so strict that it is impossible to get out by day. The 
commander of the " Enterprise," Johnston Blakely, ex- 
presses astonishment that the enemy should employ so 
large a force to blockade so small a vessel.^ It was, how- 
ever, no matter for surprise, but purely a question of busi- 
ness. The possibilities of injury by the " Enterprise " must 
be blasted at any cost, and Blakely himself a year later, in 

1 Captains' Letters. 2 Ibid., Jnne 24, 1813. 

' Hull to Navy Department, July 31, 1813. Ibid. 

188 THE WAR OF 1812 

the " Wasp," was to illustrate forcibly what one smart ship 
can effect in the destruction of hostile commerce and 
hostile cruisers. 

Blakely's letter was dated July 31. The " Enterprise " 
had not long to wait for her opportunity, but it did not fall 
to his lot to utilize it. Being promoted the following month, 
he was relieved in command by Lieutenant William Burroavs. 
This officer had been absent in China, in mercantile em- 
ployment, when the war broke out, and, returning, was 
captured at sea. Exchanged in June, 1813, he was ordered 
to the " Enterprise," in which he saw his only service in the 
war, — a brief month. She left Portsmouth September 1, 
on a coasting cruise, and on the morning of the 5th, being 
then off Monhegan Island, on the coast of Maine, sighted a 
vessel of war, which proved to be the British brig " Boxer," 
Commander Samuel Blyth. 

The antagonists in the approaching combat were nearly 
of equal force, the respective armaments being, " Enter- 
prise," fourteen 18-pounder carronades, and two long 9- 
pounders, the " Boxer," twelve 18-pounder carronades and 
two long sixes. The action began side by side, at half 
pistol-shot, the " Enterprise " to the right and to windward 
(position 1), After fifteen minutes the latter ranged ahead 
(2). As she did so, one of her 9-pounders, which by the 
forethought of Captain Burrows had been shifted from its 
place in the bow to the stern,i was used with effect to rake 
her opponent. She then rounded-to on the starboard tack, 
on the port-bow of the enemy, — ahead but well to the 
left (3), — in position to rake with her carronades; and, 
setting the foresail, sailed slowly across from left to right. 
In five minutes the " Boxer's " maintopmast and foretop- 

1 Cooper tells the story that when this gun was transported, and prepara- 
tions being made to use it as a stern instead of a bow chaser, the crew — to 
whom Burrows was as yet a stranger, known chiefly by his reputation for 
great eccentricity — came to the mast to express a hope that the brig was 
not going to retreat. 


sailyard fell. This left the " Enterprise " the mastery of 
the situation, which 'she continued to hold until ten min- 
utes later, when the enemy's fire ceased. Her colors could 
not be hauled down, Blyth ha\dng nailed them to the 
mast. He himself had been killed at the first broadside, 
and almost at the same instant Burrows too fell, mortally 

The "Boxer" belonged to a class of vessel, the gun 
brigs, which Marryat through one of his characters styled 
" bathing machines," only not built, as the legitimate article, 
to go up, but to go down. Another, — the immortal Boat- 
swain Chucks, — proclaimed that they would " certainly 
d — n their inventor to all eternity ; " adding characteristic- 
ally, that " their low common names, ' Pincher,' ' Thrasher,' 
* Boxer,' ' Badger,' and all that sort, are quite good enough 
for them." In the United States service the " Enterprise," 
which had been altered from a schooner to a brig, was con- 
sidered a singularly dull sailer. As determined by Ameri- 
can measurements, taken four days after the action, the size 
of the two was the same within twenty tons ; the " Boxer " 
a little the larger. The superiority of the " Enterprise " in 
broadside force, was eight guns to seven ; or, stated in 
weight of projectiles, one hundred and thirty-five pounds 
to one hundred and fourteen. This disparity, though real, 
was in no sense decisive, and the execution done by each 
bore no comparison to the respective armaments. The hull 
of the " Boxer " was pierced on the starboard side by twelve 
18-pound shot, nearly two for each of the " Enterprise's " 
carronades. The 9-pounder had done even better, scoring 
five hits. On her port side had entered six of 18 pounds, 
and four of 9 poimds. By the official report of an inspec- 
tion, made upon her arrival in Portland, it appears that her 
Tipper works and sides forward were torn to pieces.^ In 

1 Report of Lieutenant Tillinghast to Captain Hull. Captains' Letters, 
Sept. 9, 1813. 

190 THE WAR OF 1812 

her mainmast alone were three 18-pound shot.^ As a set- 
off to this principal damage received, she had to show only 
one 18-pound shot in the hull of the " Enterprise," one in 
the foremast, and one in the mainmast.^ 

From these returns, the American loss in killed and 
wounded, twelve, must have been largely by grapeshot or 
musketry. The British had twenty-one men hurt. It has 
been said that this difference in loss is nearly proportionate 
to the difference in force. This is obviously inexact ; for 
the " Enterprise " was superior in gun power by twelve per 
cent, while the " Boxer's " loss was greater by seventy-five 
per cent. Moreover, if the statement of crews be accurate, 
that the " Enterprise " had one hundred and twenty and the 
" Boxer " only sixty-six,^ it is clear that the latter had double 
the human target, and scored little more than half the hits. 
The contest, in brief, was first an artillery duel, side to side, 
followed by a raking position obtained by the American. 
It therefore reproduced in leading features, although on 
a minute scale, the affair between the "Chesapeake" 
and " Shannon " ; and the exultation of the American 
populace at this rehabihtation of the credit of their navy, 
though exaggerated in impression, was in principle sound. 
The British Court Martial found that the defeat was " to 
be attributed to a superiority of the enemy's force, princi- 
pally in the number of men, as well as to a greater degree 
of skill in the direction of her fire, and the destructive 

1 Hull to Bainbridge, Sept. 10. Niles' Register, vol. v. p. 58. 

2 Report of the carpenter of the " Enterprise." Captains' Letters. 

3 There is a discrepancy in the statements concerning the " Boxer's " crew. 
Hull reported officially, " We have sixty-seven, exclusive of those killed and 
thrown overboard." (Sept. 25. Captains' Letters.) Lieutenant McCall, who 
succeeded to the command after Burrows fell, reported that " from informa- 
tion received from officers of the ' Boxer ' it appears that there were between 
twenty and thirty-five killed, and fourteen wounded." (U. S. State Papers, 
Naval Affairs, vol. i. p. 297.) The number killed is evidently an exaggerated 
impression received, resembling some statements made concerning the " Chesa- 
peake ; " but it is quite likely that the " Boxer's " loss should be increased by 
several bodies thrown overboard. 


effects of her first broadside." ^ This admission as to the 
enemy's gunnery is substantially identical with the claim 
made for that of the " Shannon," — notably as to the first 
broadside. As to the greater numbers, one hundred and 
twenty is certainly almost tvnce sixty-six, and the circum- 
stance should be weighed ; but in an engagement confined 
to the guns, and between 18-pounder carronade batteries, 
it is of less consequence than at first glance appears. A 
cruiser of those days expected to be ready to fight with 
many men away in prizes. Had it come to boarding, or 
had the " Boxer's " gunnery been good, disabling her op- 
ponent's men, the numbers would have become of con- 
sideration. As it was, they told for something, but not 
for very much. 

If national credit were at issue in every single-ship 
action, the balance of the " Chesapeake " and " Shannon," 
" Enterprise " and " Boxer," would incline rather to the 
American side ; for the " Boxer " was not just out of port 
with new commander, officers, and crew, but had been in 
commission six months, had in that time crossed the ocean, 
and been employed along the coast. The ci-edit and dis- 
credit in both cases is personal, not national It was the 
sadder in Blyth's case because he was an officer of distin- 
guished courage and activity, who had begun his fighting 
career at the age of eleven, when he was on board a heavily 
battered ship in Lord Howe's battle of June 1, 1794. At 
thirty, with little influence, and at a period when promo- 
tion had become comparatively sluggish, he had fairly 
fought his way to the modest preferment in which he died. 
Under the restricted opportunities of the United States 
Navj-, Burrows had seen service, and his qualities received 
recognition, in the hostiUties with Tripoli. The unusual 
circumstance of both captains falling, and so young, — 
Burrows was but twenty-eight, — imparted to this tiny 

1 Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxii. p. 473. 

192 THE WAR OF 1812 

combat an unusual pathos, which was somewhat height- 
ened by the fact that Blyth himself had acted as jpall-bearer 
when Lawrence, three months before, was buried with mil- 
itary honors at Halifax. In Portland, Maine, the two 
young commanders were borne to their graves together, in 
a common funeral, with all the observance possible in a 
small coast town; business being everywhere suspended, 
and the customary tokens of mourning displayed upon 
buildings and shipping. 

After this engagement, as the season progressed, coast- 
wise operations in this quarter became increasingly hazard- 
ous for both parties. On October 22, Hull wrote that 
neither the "Enterprise" nor the "Rattlesnake" could 
cruise much longer. The enemy still maintained his 
grip, in virtue of greater size and numbers. Ten days 
later comes the report of a convoy, with one of the brigs, 
driven into port by a frigate ; that the enemy appear almost 
every day, and never without a force superior to that of 
both his brigs, which he fears to trust out overnight, lest 
they find themselves at morning under the guns of an 
opponent of weightier battery. The long nights and 
stormy seas of winter, however, soon afforded to coasters 
a more secure protection than friendly guns, and Hull's 
letters intermit until April 6, 1814, when he announces 
that the enemy has made his appearance in great force ; he 
presumes for the summer. Besides the danger and inter- 
ruption of the coasting trade, Hull was increasingly anx- 
ious as to the safety of Portsmouth itself. By a recent 
act of Congress four seventy-fours had been ordered to be 
built, and one of them was now in construction there under 
his supervision. Despite the navigational difficulties of 
entering the port, which none was more capable of appre- 
ciating than he, he regarded the defences as so inadequate 
that it would be perfectly possible to destroy her on the 
stocks. " There is nothing," he said, " to prevent a ver}- 


small force from entering the harbor." At the same moment 
Decatur was similarly concerned for the squadron at New 
London, and we have seen the fears of Stewart for Xorfolk. 
So marked was Hull's apprehension in this respect, that he 
sent the frigate " Congress " four miles up the river, where 
she remained to the end of the war ; her crew being trans- 
ferred to Lake Ontario. Xew York, the greater wealth of 
which increased both her danger and her capacity for self- 
protection, was looking to her own fortifications, as well as 
manning, provisioning, and paying the crews of the gun- 
boats that patrolled her watere, on the side of the sea and 
of the Sound. 

The exposure of the coasting trade from Boston Bay 
eastward was increased by the absence of interior coast- 
wise channels, until the chain of islands about and beyond 
the Penobscot was reached. On the other hand, the char- 
acter of the shore, bold, with off-lying rocks and many 
small harbors, confen*ed a distinct advantage upon those 
having local knowledge, as the coasting seamen had. On 
such a route the points of danger are capes and headlands, 
particularly if their projection is great, such as the promon- 
tory between Portsmouth and Boston, of which Cape Ann 
is a conspicuous landmark. There the coaster has to go 
farthest from his refuge, and the deep-sea cruiser can 
approach with least risk. In a proper scheme of coast 
defence batteries are mounted on such positions. This, 
it is needless to say, in ^iew of the condition of the port 
fortifications, had not been done in the United States. 
Barring this, the whole situation of the coast, of trade, 
and of blockade, was one with which British naval ofiicers 
had then been familiar for twenty years, through their 
employment upon the French and Spanish coasts, as well 
Meditenanean as Atlantic, and in many other parts of the 
world. To hover near the land, intercepting and fighting 
by day, manning boats and cutting out by night, harassing, 

VOL. II. 13 M 

194 THE WAR OF 1812 

driving on shore, destroying the sinews of war by breaking 
down communications, was to them simply an old experience 
to be applied under new and rather easier circumstances. 

Of these operations frequent instances are given in con- 
temporaiy journals and letters ; but less account has been 
taken of the effects, as running through household and 
social economics, touching purse and comfort. These are 
traceable in commercial statistics. At the time they must 
have been severely felt, bringing the sense of the war 
vividly home to the community. The stringency of the 
British action is betrayed, however, by casual notices. 
The captain of a schooner burned by the British frigate 
" Nymphe " is told by her commander that he had orders to 
destroy every vessel large enough to carry two men. " A 
brisk business is now carrying on all along our coast be- 
tween British cruisers and our coasting vessels, in ready 
money. Friday last, three masters went into Gloucester to 
procure money to carry to a British frigate to ransom their 
vessels. Thursday, a Marblehead schooner was ransomed 
by the ' Nymphe ' for $400. Saturday, she took off Cape 
Ann three coasters and six fishing boats, and the masters 
were sent on shore for money to ransom them at $200 
each." There was room for the wail of a federalist paper : 
" Our coasts unnavigable to ourselves, though free to the 
enemy and the monej'-making neutral ; our harbors block- 
aded ; our shipping destroyed or rotting at the docks ; 
silence and stillness in our cities ; the grass growing upon 
the public wharves." ^ In the district of Maine, " the long 
stagnation of foreign, and embarrassment of domestic trade, 
have extended the sad effects from the seaboard through 
the interior, where the scarcity of money is severely felt. 
There is not enough to pay the taxes." ^ 

South of Chesapeake Bay the coast is not bold and 

1 Columbian Centinel, July 28, Sept. 1, and Nov. 13, 1813. 

2 Ibid., Sept. 25. 



rocky, like that north of Cape Cod, but in its low elevation 
and gradual soundings resembles rather those of New 
Jersey and Delaware. It has certain more pronounced 
features in the extensive navigable sounds and channels, 
which lie behind the islands and sandbars skirting the 
shores. The North Carolina system of internal water 
communications, PamUco Sound and its extensions, stood 
by itself. To reach that to the southward, it was necessaiy 
to make a considerable sea ran, round the far projecting 
Cape Fear, exposed to capture outside ; but from Charles- 
ton to the St. Mary's River, which then formed the Florida 
boundary for a hundred miles of its length, the inside 
passages of South Carolina and Georgia were continuous, 
though in many places difficult, and in others open to 
attack from the sea. Between St. Mary's and Savannah, 
for example, there were seven inlets, and Captain Campbell, 
the naval officer in charge of that district, reported that 
three of these were practicable for frigates -, ^ but this state- 
ment, while literally accurate, conveys an exaggerated im- 
pression, for no sailing frigate would be likely to cross a 
difficult bar for a single offensive operation, merely to 
find herself confronted with conditions forbidding further 

The great menace to the inside traffic consisted in the 
facility with which cruisers outside could pass from en- 
trance to entrance, contrasted with the intricacies mthin 
impeding similar action by the defence. If a bevy of 
unprotected coasters were discerned by an enemy's look- 
outs, the ship could run down abreast, send in her boats, 
capture or destroy, before the gunboats, if equidistant at the 
beginning, could overcome the obstacles due to rise and fall 
of tide, or narrowness of passage, and arrive to the rescue.^ 

^ Campbell to Navy Department, Jan. 4, 1814. Captains' Letters. 
2 For full particulars see Captains' Letters (Campbell), June 12, 1813; 
Jan. 2 and 4, Aug. 20, Sept. 3, Oct. 8, Oct. 15, Dec. 4, 1814. 

196 THE WAR OF 1812 

A suggested remedy was to replace the gunboats by row- 
ing barges, similar to, but more powerful than, those used 
by the enemy in his attacks. The insuperable trouble here 
proved to be that men fit for such work, fit to contend 
with the seamen of the enemy, were unwilling to abandon 
the sea, with its hopes of prize money, or to submit to the 
exposure and discomfort of the life, " The crews of the 
gunboats," wrote Captain Campbell, " consist of all nations 
except Turks, Greeks, and Jews." On one occasion the 
ship's company of an American privateer, which had been 
destroyed after a desperate and celebrated resistance to 
attack by British armed boats, arrived at St. Mary's. Of 
one hundred and nineteen American seamen, only four 
could be prevailed upon to enter the district naval force. ^ 
This was partly due to the embarrassment of the national 
finances. " The want of funds to pay off discharged 
men," wrote the naval captain at Charleston, " has given 
such a character to the navy as to stop recruiting." ^ 
"Men could be had," reported his colleague at St. Mary's, 
now transferred to Savannah, " were it not for the Treas- 
ury notes, which cannot be passed at less than five per 
cent discount. Men will not ship without cash. There 
are upwards of a hundred seamen in port, but they refuse 
to enter, even though we offer to ship for a month only."^ 
During the American Civil War, fifty years after the 
time of which we are speaking, this internal communication 
was effectually intercepted by stationing inside steamers 
of adequate force ; but that recourse, while not absolutely 
impracticable for small sailing cruisers, involved a risk 
disproportionate to tlie gain. Through traffic could have 
been broken up by keeping a frigate in any one of the 
three sounds, entrance to which was practicable for vessels 

1 Campbell, Dec. 2, 1814. Captains' Letters. 

2 Dent to Navy Department, Jan. 28, 1815. Ibid. 
8 Campbell, Feb. 3, 1815. Ibid. 


of that class. In view of the amount of trade passing back 
and forth, which Campbell stated to be in one period of 
four months as much as eight million dollars, it is surpris- 
ing that this obvious expedient was not adopted by the 
enemy. That they appreciated the situation is shown by 
the intention, announced in 1813, of seizing one of the 
islands; which was effected in January, 1815, by the 
occupation of Cumberland and St. Simons'. As it was, 
up to that late period the routine methods of their European 
experience prevailed, with the result that their coastwise 
operations in the south differed little from those in the 
extreme north. Smaller vessels occasionally, armed boats 
frequently, pushed inside the inlets, seizing coasters, and at 
times even attacking the gunboats. While the positive 
loss thus inflicted was considerable, it will readily be 
understood that it was much exceeded by the negative 
effect, in deterring from movement, and reducing naviga- 
tion to the limits of barest necessity. 

In these operations the ships of war were seconded by 
privateers from the West Indies, which hovered round this 
coast, as the Halifax vessels did round that of New Eng- 
land, seeking such scraps of prize money as might be left 
over from the ruin of American commerce and the immuni- 
ties of the licensed traders. The United States officers at 
Charleston and Savannah were at their wits' ends to pro- 
vide security with their scanty means, — more scanty even 
in men than in vessels ; and when there came upon them 
the additional duty of enforcing the embargo of December, 
1813, in the many quarters, and against the various subter- 
fuges, by which evasion would be attempted, the task was 
manifestly impossible. " This is the most convenient part 
of the world for illicit trade that I have ever seen," wrote 
Campbell. From a return made this summer by the Sec- 
retary of the Navy to Congress,^ it is shown that one brig 

1 JuDe 7, 1813. Navy Department MSS. 

198 THE WAR OF 1812 

of eighteen guns, which was not a cruiser, but a station 
ship at Savannah, eleven gunboats, three other schooners, 
and four barges, were apportioned to the stretch of coast 
from Georgetown to St. Mary's, — over two hundred 
miles. With the fettered movement of the gunboats be- 
fore mentioned, contrasted with the outside cruisers, it was 
impossible to meet conditions by distributing this force, 
** for the protection of the several inlets," as had at first 
been directed b}' the Navy Department. The only de- 
fensive recourse approximately satisfactory was that of the 
deep-sea merchant service of Great Britain, proposed also 
by Hull at the northward, to assemble vessels in convoys, 
and to accompany them throughout a voyage. " I have 
deemed it expedient," wrote Campbell from St. Mary's, 
" to order the gun vessels to sail in company, not less than 
four in number, and have ordered convoy to the inland 
trade at stated periods, by which means vessels may be pro- 
tected, and am sorry to say this is all that can be effected 
in our present situation." ^ In this way a fair degree of 
immunity was attained. Rubs were met with occasionally, 
and heavy losses were reported from time to time. There 
was a certain amount of fighting and scuffling, in which 
advantage was now on one side, now on the other ; but 
upon the whole it would appear that the novelty of the 
conditions and ignorance of the ground rather imposed 
upon the imagination of the enemy, and that their opera- 
tions against this inside trade were at once less active and 
less successful than under the more familiar features pre- 
sented by the coasts of Maine and Massachusetts. 

Whatever more or less of success or injury attended the 
coastwise trade in the several localities, the point to be 
observed is that the enemy's operations effectually separated 
the different sections of the country from one another, so 
far as this means of intercourse was concerned; thereby 

1 Captains' Letters, Sept. 3, 1814. 


striking a deadly blow at the mutual support which might 
be given by communities differing so markedly in re- 
sources, aptitudes, and industries. The remark before 
made upon the effect of headlands, on the minor scale of a 
particular shore-line, applied with special force to one so 
extensive as that of the United States Atlantic coast in 
1813. Cape Cod to the north and Cape Fear to the south 
were conspicuous examples of such projection. Combined 
with the relatively shelterless and harborless central streteh, 
intervening between them, from the Chesapeake to Sandy 
Hook, they constituted insuperable obstacles to sustained 
intercommunication by water. The presence of the enemy 
in great numbers before, around, and within the central 
section, emphasized the military weakness of position which 
nature herself had there imposed. To get by sea from one 
end of the country to the other it was necessary to break 
the blockade in starting, to take a wide sweep out to sea, 
and again to break it at the desired point of entrance. 
This, however, is not coasting. 

The effect which this coast pressure produced upon the 
welfare of the several sections is indicated here and there 
by official utterances. The war party naturally inclined to 
minimize unfavorable results, and their opponents in some 
measure to exaggerate them ; but of the general tendency 
there can be no serious doubt. Mr. Pearson, an opposition 
member of the House from North Carolina, speaking Feb- 
ruary 16, 1814, when the record of 1813 was made up, and 
the short-lived embargo of December was yet in force, 
said: "Blocked up as we are by the enemy's squadron 
upon our coast, corked up by our still more unmerciful 
embargo and non-importation laws, calculated as it were 
to fill up the little chasm in the ills which the enemy alone 
could not inflict ; the entire coasting trade destroyed, and 
even the little pittance of intercourse from one port to 
the other in the same state destroyed [by the embargo], 

200 THE WAR OF 1812 

the planters of the Southern and Middle states, finding no 
market at home for their products, are driven to the alter- 
native of wagoning them hundreds of miles, in search of a 
precarious market in the Northern and Eastern states, or 
permitting them to rot on their hands. Many articles 
which are, or by habit have become, necessary for comfort, 
are obtained at extravagant prices from other parts of the 
Union. The balance of trade, if trade it may be called, 
from these and other causes being so entirely against the 
Southern and Middle states, the whole of our specie is 
rapidly travelling to the North and East. Our bank paper 
is thrown back upon the institutions from which it issued ; 
and as the war expenditures in the Southern and Middle 
states, where the loans have been principally obtained, are 
proportionately inconsiderable, the bills of these banks are 
daily returning, and their vaults drained of specie, to be 
locked up in Eastern and Western states, never to return 
but with the return of peace and prosperity." ^ 

The isolation of North Carolina was extreme, with Cape 
Fear to the south and the occupied Chesapeake north of 
her. The Governor of the central state of Pennsylvania, 
evidently in entire political sympathy with the national 
Administration, in his message to the legislature at the same 
period,^ is able to congratulate the people on the gratifying 
state of the commonwealth ; a full treasury, abundant yield 
of agriculture, and the progress of manufacturing develop- 
ment, which, " however we may deprecate and deplore the 
calamities of protracted war, console us with the prospect 
of permanent and extensive establishments equal to our 
wants, and such as will insure the real and practical inde- 
pendence of our country." But he adds : " At no period 
of our history has the immense importance of internal navi- 
gation been so strikingly exemplified as since the com- 

1 Benton's Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, vol. v. p. 202. 

2 Dec. 10, 1813. Niles' Register, vol. v. pp. 257-260. 


mencement of hostilities. The transportation of produce, 
and the intercourse between citizens of the different states, 
which knit more strongly the bonds of social and political 
union, are greatly retarded, and, through many of their 
accustomed channels, entirely interrupted by the water 
craft of the enemy, sinking, burning, and otherwise de- 
stroying, the property which it cannot appropriate to its 
own use." He looks forward to a renewal of similar mis- 
fortune in the following year, an anticipation more than 
fulfilled. The ofificials of other states, according to their 
political complexion, either lamented the sufferings of the 
war and its supposed injustice, or comforted themselves 
and their hearers by reflecting upon the internal fruitful- 
ness of the country, and its increasing self-sufficingness. 
The people were being equipped for independence of the 
foreigner by the progress of manufactures, and by habits 
of economy and self-denial, enforced by deprivation arising 
from the suppression of the coasting trade and the rigoi-s 
of the commercial blockade. 

The effect of the latter, which by the spring of 1814 had 
been in force nearly a twelvemonth over the entire coast 
south of Narragansett Bay, can be more directly estimated 
and concisely stated, in terms of money, than can the inter- 
ruption of the coasting trade ; for the statistics of export 
and import, contrasted with those of years of peace, convey 
it directly. It has already been stated that the exports for 
the year ending September 30, 181-4, during which the 
operation of the blockade was most universal and continu- 
ous, fell to 87,000,000, as compared with 825,000,000 in 
1813, and 815,000,000 in 1811, a year of peace though of 
restricted intercourse. Such figures speak distinctly as 
well as forcibly ; it being necessary, however, to full appre- 
ciation of the difference between 1813 and 1814, to remem- 
ber that during the first half of the iorraer ofificial period — ■ 
from October 1, 1812, to April 1, 1813, — there had been 

202 THE WAR OF 1812 

no commercial blockade beyond the Chesapeake and Dela- 
ware ; and that, even after it had been instituted, the Brit- 
ish license system operated to the end of September to 
qualify its effects. 

Here and there interesting particulars may be gleaned, 
which serve to illustrate these effects, and to give to the 
picture that precision of outline which heightens impres- 
sion. " I believe," wrote a painstaking Baltimore editor in 
December, 1814, " that there has not been an arrival in 
Baltimore from a foreign port for a twelvemonth " ; ^ yet 
the city in 1811 had had a registered tonnage of 88,398, 
and now boasted that of the scanty national commerce still 
maintained, through less secluded ports, at least one half 
was carried on by its celebrated schooners,^ the speed and 
handiness of which, combined with a size that intrusted 
not too many eggs to one basket, imparted special facilities 
for escaping pursuit and minimizing loss. A representa- 
tive from Maryland at about this time presented in the 
House a memorial from Baltimore merchants, stating that 
*'in consequence of the strict blockade of our bays and 
rivers the private-armed service is much discouraged," and 
submitting the expediency " of offering a bounty for the 
destruction of enemy's vessels ; " a suggestion the very 
extravagance of which indicates more than words the 
extent of the depression felt. The price of salt in Balti- 
more, in November, 1814, was five dollars the bushel. In 
Charleston it was the same, while just across the Spanish 
border, at Amelia Island, thronged with foreign merchant 
ships, it was selHng at seventy cents. ^ 

Such a contrast, which must necessarily be reproduced 
in other articles not indigenous, accounts at once for the 
smuggling deplored by Captain Campbell, and at the same 
time testifies both to the efficacy of the blockade and to the 

* Niles' Register, vol. vii. p. 194. ^ ibid., vol. viii. p. 234. 

' Ibid., vol. vii. p. 168. Quoted from a Charleston, S. C, paper. 


pressure exercised upon the inland navigation by the out- 
side British national cruisers and privateers. This one 
instance, affecting one of the prime necessaries of life, 
certifies to the stringent exclusion from the sea of the 
coast on Avhich Charleston was the chief seaport. Captain 
Dent, commanding this naval district, alludes to the con- 
stant presence of blockaders, and occasionally to vessels 
taken outside by them, chased ashore, or intercepted in 
various inlets ; narrating particularly the singular inci- 
dent that, despite his lemonstrances, a flag of truce was 
sent on board the enemy by local authorities to negotiate 
a purchase of goods thus captured.^ This unmilitary pro- 
ceeding, which evinces the necessities of the neighborhood, 
was of course immediately stopped by the Government. 

A somewhat singular incidental circumstance, support- 
ing the other inferences, is found in the spasmodic eleva- 
tion of the North Carolina coast into momentary commercial 
consequence as a place of entry and deposit ; not indeed to 
a very great extent, but ameliorating to a slight degree 
the deprivation of the regions lying north and south, — the 
neighborhood of Charleston on the one hand, of Richmond 
and Baltimore on the other. " The watei-s of North Caro- 
lina, from Wilmington to Ocracoke, though not favorable 
to commerce in time of peace, by reason of their shallow- 
ness and the danger of the coast, became important and 
useful in time of war, and a very considerable trade was 
prosecuted from and into those waters during the late war, 
and a coasting trade as far as Charleston, attended with 
less risk than many would imagine. A vessel may prose- 
cute a voyage from Elizabeth City [near the Virginia 
line] to Charleston without being at sea more than a few 
hours at any one time." ^ Some tables of arrivals show a 

1 Captains' Letters, May 3, 23, 24 ; Jane 27, 29 ; August 7,17; Nov. 9, 
13, 23, 1813. 

2 Niles' Register, vol. viii. p. 311. Quoted from a Norfolk paper. 

204 THE WAR OF 1812 

comparative immunity for vessels entering here from 
abroad ; due doubtless to the unquestioned dangers of the 
coast, which conspired with the necessarily limited extent 
of the traffic to keep the enemy at a distance. It was not 
by them wholly overlooked. In July, 1813, Admiral 
Cockburn anchored with a division off Ocracoke bar, 
sent in his boats, and captured a privateer and letter-of- 
marque Avhich had there sought a refuge denied to them 
by the blockade elsewhere. The towns of Beaufort and 
Portsmouth were occupied for some hours. The United 
States naval officer at Charleston found it necessary also 
to extend the alongshore cruises of his schooners as far 
as Cape Fear, for the protection of this trade on its way to 
his district. 

The attention aroused to the development of internal 
navigation also bears witness to the pressure of the block- 
ade. " It is my opinion," said the Governor of Pennsyl- 
vania, " that less than one half the treasure expended by 
the United States for the protection of foreign commerce, 
if combined with state and individual wealth, would have 
perfected an inland water communication from Maine to 
Georgia." It was argued by others that the extra money 
spent for land transportation of goods, while the coasting 
trade was suspended, would have effected a complete tide- 
water inland navigation such as here suggested ; and there 
was cited a declaration of Robert Fulton, who died dur- 
ing the war, that within twenty-one months as great a sum 
had been laid out in wagon hire as would have effected 
this object. Whatever the accuracy of these estimates, 
their silent witness to the influence of the blockade upon 
commerce, external and coastwise, quite overbears Presi- 
dent Madison's perfunctory denials of its effectiveness, 
based upon the successful evasions which more or less 
attend all such operations. 

Perhaps, however, the most signal proof of the pressure 


exerted is to be seen in the rebound, the instant it was 
removed; in the effect upon prices, and upon the move- 
ments of shipping. Taken in connection with the other 
evidence, direct and circumstantial, so far cited, what can 
testify more forcibly to the strangulation of the coasting 
trade than the fact that in the month of March, 1815, 
— news of the peace having been received Februaiy 11, — 
there sailed from Boston one hundred and forty-four ves- 
sels, more than half of them square-rigged ; and that of 
the whole all but twenty -six were for United States ports. 
Within three weeks of April there arrived at Charleston, 
exclusive of coasters, one hundred and fifty-eight vessels; 
at Savannah, in tlie quarter ending June 30, two hundred 
and three. Something of this outburst of acti\'ity, in 
which neutrals of many nations shared, was due, as Mr. 
Clay said, to the suddenness with which commerce revived 
after momentary suspension. " The bow had been un- 
strung that it might acquire fresh vigor and new elas- 
ticity " ; and the stored-up products of the country, so 
long barred within, imparted a peculiar nervous haste to 
the renewal of intercourse. The absolute numbers quoted 
do not give as vivid impression of conditions at differing 
times as do some comparisons, easily made. In the year 
1813, as shown by the returns of the United States Treas- 
ury, out of 674,853 tons of registered — sea-going — ship- 
ping, only 233,439— one third — paid the duties exacted 
upon each several voyage, and of these many doubtless 
sailed under British license.^ In 1814 the total tonnage, 
674,632, shows that ship-building had practically ceased; 
and of this amount one twelfth only, 58,756 tons, paid dues 
for going out.^ In 1816, when peace conditions were fully 
established, though less than two years had passed, the 
total tonnage had increased to 800,760 ; duties, being paid 

1 American State Papers, Commerce and Na\-igation, vol. i. p. 1017. 

2 Ibid., vol. ii. p. 12. 

206 THE WAR OF 1812 

each voyage, were collected on 865, 219.^ Thus the foreign 
voyages that year exceeded the total shipping of the coun- 
try, and by an amount greater than all the American 
tonnage that put to sea in 1814. 

The movement of coasting vessels, technically called 
"enrolled," is not so clearly indicated by the returns, 
because all the trips of each were covered by one license 
annually renewed. A licensed coaster might make several 
voyages, or she might make none. In 1813 the figures 
show that, of 471,109 enrolled tonnage, 252,440 obtained 
licenses. In 1814 there is, as in the registered shipping, 
a diminution of the total to 466,159, of which a still smaller 
proportion, 189,662, took out the annual license. In 1816 
the enrolment was 522,165, the licensing 414,594. In the 
fishing craft, a class by themselves, the employment rose 
from 16,453 in 1814 to 48,147 in 1816; 2 the difPerence 
doubtless being attributable chiefly to the reopening of the 
cod fishing on the banks of Newfoundland, necessarily 
closed to the American flag by the maritime hostilities. 

The influence of the peace upon prices is likewise a mat- 
ter too interesting to a correct appreciation of effects to 
be wholly passed over. In considering it, the quotations 
before the receipt of the news doubtless represent condi- 
tions more correctly than do the immediate changes. The 
official tidings of peace reached New York, February 11, 
1815. The Evening Post, in its number of February 14, 
says, " We give to-day one of the effects of the prospect of 
peace, even before ratification. Our markets of every kind 
experienced a sudden, and to many a shocking, change. 
Sugar, for instance, fell from $26 per hundredweight to 
il2.50. Tea, which sold on Saturday at $2.25, on Monday 
was purchased at a $1.00. Specie, which had got up to the 
enormous rate of 22 per cent premium, dropped down to 2. 

1 American State Papers, Commerce and Navigation, vol. ii. p. 87. 

2 Ibid., vol. i, p. 1017 ; vol. ii. pp. 12, 87. 


The article of tin, in particular, fell from the height of 880 
the box to $25. Six per cents rose from 76 to 88 ; ten per 
cents and Treasury notes from 92 to 98. Bank stock gener- 
ally rose from five to ten per cent." In Philadelphia, flour 
which sold at $7.50 the barrel on Saturday had risen to $10 
on Monday ; a testimony that not only foreign export but 
home supply to the eastward was to be renewed. The 
fall in foreign products, due to freedom of import, was 
naturally accompanied by a rise in domestic produce, to 
which an open outlet with proportionate increase of de- 
mand was now afforded. In Philadelphia the exchange on 
Boston reflected these conditions ; falling from twenty-five 
per cent to thirteen. 

It may then be concluded that there is httle exaggera- 
tion in the words used by " a distinguished naval officer " 
of the day, in a letter contributed to Niles' Register, in 
its issue of June 17, 1815. "No sooner had the enemy 
blockaded our harbors, and extended his line of cruisers 
from ^Maine to Georgia, than both foreign and domestic 
commerce came at once to be reduced to a deplorable state 
of stagnation ; producing in its consequences the utter ruin 
of many respectable merchants, as well as of a great multi- 
tude besides, connected with them in their mercantile pur- 
suits. But these were not the only consequences. The 
regular supply of foreign commodities being thereby cut off, 
many articles, now become necessaries of life, were raised 
to an exorbitant price, and bore much upon the finances of 
the citizen, whose family could not comfoi-tably exist with- 
out them. Add to this, as most of the money loaned to 
the Government for the purposes of the war came from the 
pockets of merchants, they were rendered incapable of con- 
tinuing these disbursements in consequence of this inter- 
ruption to their trade ; whence the cause of that impending 
bankruptcy with which the Government was at one time 
threatened. ... At a critical period of the war [April, 

208 THE WAR OF 1812 

1814] Congress found it necessary to remove all restrictions 
upon commerce, both foreign and domestic. It is a lament- 
able fact, however, that the adventurous merchant found no 
alleviation from these indulgences, his vessels being uni- 
formly prevented hj a strong blockading force, not only 
from going out, but from coming into port, at the most 
imminent risk of capture. The risk did not stop here ; for 
the islands and ports most frequented by American vessels 
being known to the enemy, he was enabled from his abun- 
dance of means to intercept them there also. The coasting 
trade, that most valuable appendage to an extensive mer- 
cantile establishment in the United States, was entirely 
annihilated. The southern and northern sections of the 
Union were unable to exchange their commodities, except 
upon a contracted scale through the medium of land car- 
riage, and then only at a great loss ; so that, upon the whole, 
nothing in a national point of view appeared to be more 
loudly called for by men of all parties than a naval force 
adequate to the protection of our commerce, and the raising 
of the blockade of our coast." 

Such was the experience which sums up the forgotten 
bitter truth, concerning a war which has left in the United 
States a prevalent impression of distinguished success, be- 
cause of a few brilliant naval actions and the closing battle 
of New Orleans. The lesson to be deduced is not that the 
country at that time should have sought to maintain a navy 
approaching equality to the British. In the state of na- 
tional population and revenue, it was no more possible to 
attempt this than that it would be expedient to do it now, 
under the present immense development of resources and 
available wealth. What had been possible during the dec- 
ade preceding the war, — had the nation so willed, — was 
to place the navy on such a footing, in numbers and con- 
stitution, as would have made persistence in the course 
Great Britain was following impolitic to the verge of mad- 


ness, because it would add to her war embarrassments the 
activity of an imposing maritime enemy, at the threshold of 
her most valuable markets, — the West Indies, — three 
thousand miles away from her own shores and from the 
seat of her principal and necessary warfare. The United 
States could not have encountered Great Britain single- 
handed — true ; but there was not then the slightest pros- 
pect of her having to do so. The injuries of which she 
complained were incidental to a state of European war: 
inconceivable and impossible apart from it. She was 
therefore assured of the support of most powerful allies, 
occupying the attention of the British navy and draining 
the resources of the British empire. This condition of 
things was notorious, as was the fact that, despite the dis- 
appointment of Trafalgar, Napoleon was sedulously restor- 
ing the numbers of a navy, to the restraining of which his 
enemy was barely competent. 

The anxiety caused to the British Admiralty by the op- 
erations of the small American squadrons in the autumn 
of 1812 has already been depicted in quotations from its 
despatches to Warren.^ Three or four divisions, eacli con- 
taining one to two ships of the line, were kept on the go, 
following a general round in successive relief, but together 
amounting to five or six battle ships — to use the modern 
term — with proportionate cruisers. It was not possible to 
diminish this total by concentrating them, for the essence 
of the scheme, and the necessity which dictated it, was to 
cover a wide sweep of ocean, and to protect several maritime 
strategic points through which the streams of commerce, 
controlled by well-known conditions, passed, intersected, 
or converged. So also the Admiralty signified its wish that 
one ship of the line should form the backbone of the block- 
ade before each of the American harbors. For this pur- 
pose Warren's fleet was raised to a number stated by the 

1 Ante, vol. i. pp. 402-404. 
VOL. II. — 14 

210 THE WAR OF 1812 

Admiralty's letter to him of January 9, 1813, to be " up- 
wards of ten of the line, exclusive of the six sail of the line 
appropriated to the protection of the West India convoys." 
These numbers were additional to detachments which, out- 
side of his command, were patrolling the eastern Atlantic, 
about the equator, and from the Cape Verde Islands to the 
Azores, as mentioned in another letter of February 10. In 
all, therefore, about twenty sail of the line were employed 
on account of American hostilities ; and this, it will be 
noticed, was after Napoleon's Russian disaster was fully 
known in England. It has not been without interfering 
for the moment with other A'^ery important services that my 
Lords have been able to send you this re-enforcement, and 
they most anxiously hope that the vigorous and successful 
use you will make of it will enable you shortly to return 
some of the line of battle ships to England, which, if the 
hea\y American frigates should be taken or destroyed, you 
will immediately do, retaining four line of battle ships." 
Attention should fasten upon the importance here attached 
by the British Admiralty to the bigger ships ; for it is well 
to learn of the enemy, and to appreciate that it was not 
solely light cruisers and privateers, but chiefly the heavy 
vessels, that counted in the estimate of experienced British 
naval officers. The facts are little understood in the United 
States, and consequently are almost always misrepresented. 
The reasons for this abundance of force are evident. 
As regards commerce Great Britain was on the defensive ; 
and the defensive cannot tell upon which of many exposed 
points a blow may fall. Dissemination of effort, however 
modified by strategic ingenuity, is thus to a certain extent 
imposed. If an American division might strike British 
trade on the equator between 20° and 30° west longitude, 
and also in the neighborhood of the Cape Verdes and of the 
Azores, preparation in some form to protect all those points 
was necessary, and they are too wide apart for this to be 


effected by mere concentration. So the blockade of the 
United States harbors. There might be in New York no 
American frigates, but if a division escaped from Boston 
it was possible it might come upon the New York blockade 
in superior force, if adequate numbers were not constantly 
kept there. The British commercial blockade, though 
offensive in essence, had also its defensive side, which com- 
pelled a certain dispersion of force, in order to be in local 
sufficiency in several quarters. 

These several dispersed assemblages of British ships of 
war constituted the totality of naval effort imposed upon 
Great Britain by "the fourteen sail of vessels of all de- 
scriptions " 1 which composed the United States navy. It 
would not in the least have been necessary had these 
been sloops of war — were they fourteen or forty. The 
weight of the burden was the heavy frigates, two of which 
toofether were more than a match for three of the same 
nominal class — the 38-gun frigate — which was the most 
numerous and efficient element in the British cruising force. 
The American forty-four was unknown to British experi- 
ence, and could be met only by ships of the line. Add to 
this consideration the remoteness of the American shore, 
and its dangerous proximity to very vital British interests, 
and there are found the elements of the difficult problem 
presented to the Admiralty by the combination of Ameri- 
can force — such as it was — with American advantagre of 
position for deahng a severe blow to British welfare at 
the period, 1805-1812, when the empire was in the height 
of its unsupported and almost desperate struggle with 
Napoleon ; when Prussia was chained, Austria paralyzed, 
and Russia in strict bonds of alliance — personal and 
political — with France. 

If conditions were thus menacing, as we know them to 
to have been in 1812, when war was declared, and the 

1 Admiralty's Letter to Warren. Feb. 10, 1813. 

212 THE WAR OF 1812 

invasion of Russia just beginning, when the United States 
navy was " fourteen pendants," what would they not have 
been in 1807, had the nation possessed even one half of 
the twenty ships of the line which Gouverneur Morris, a 
shrewd financier, estimated fifteen years before were within 
her competency? While entirely convinced of the illegal- 
ity of the British measures, and feeling keenly — as what 
American even now cannot but feel ? — the humiliation and 
outrage to which his country was at that period subjected, 
the writer has always recognized the stringent compulsion 
under which Great Britain lay, and the miUtary wisdom, 
in his opinion, of the belligerent measures adopted by her 
to sustain her strength through that unparalleled struggle ; 
while in the matter of impressment, it is impossible to 
deny — as was urged by Representative Gaston of North 
Carolina and Gouverneur Morris — that her claim to the 
service of her native seamen was consonant to the ideas of 
the time, as well as of utmost importance to her in that 
hour of dire need. Nevertheless, submission by America 
should have been impossible; and would have been avoid- 
able if for the fourteen pendants there had been a dozen 
sail of the line, and frigates to match. To an adequate 
weighing of conditions there will be indeed resentment 
for impressment and the other mortifications ; but it is 
drowned in wrath over the humiliating impotence of an 
administration which, owing to preconceived notions as to 
peace, made such endurance necessaiy. It is not always 
ignominious to suffer ignominy; but it always is so to 
deserve it. 

President Washington, in his last annual message, 
December 7, 1796, defined the situation then confronting 
the United States, and indicated its appropriate remedy, in 
the calm and forcible terms which characterized all his 
perceptions. ," It is in our own experience, that the most 
sincere neutrality is not a sufficient guard against the 


depredations of nations at war. To secure respect for a 
neutral flag requires a naval force, organized and ready, 
to vindicate it from insult or aggression. This may even 
prevent the necessity of going to war, by discouraging 
belligerent powers from committing such violations of the 
rights of the neutral party as may, first or last, leave no 
other option" [than war]. The last sentence is that of 
the statesman and soldier, who accurately appreciates the 
true oflSce and sphere of arms in international relations. 
His successor, John Adams, yearly renewed his recom- 
mendation for the development of the nav}* ; although, not 
being a military man, he seems to have looked rather 
exclusively on the defensive aspect, and not to have real- 
ized that possible enemies are more deterred by the fear of 
offensive action against themselves than by recognition 
of a defensive force which awaits attack at an enemy's 
pleasure. Moreover, in his administration, it was not 
Great Britain, but France, that was most actively engaged 
in violating the neutral rights of American shipping, and 
French commercial interests then presented nothing upon 
which retaliation could take effect. The American problem 
then was purely defensive, — to destroy the armed ships 
engaged in molesting the national commerce. 

President Jefferson, whose influence was paramount 
with the dominant party which remained in power from 
his inauguration in 1801 to the war, based his policy upon 
the conviction, expressed in his inaugural, that this " was 
the only government where every man would meet in- 
vasions of the public order as his own personal concern ; " 
and that " a well-disciplined mQitia is our best reliance for 
the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them.'' 
In pursuance of these fundamental principles, it was doubt- 
less logical to recommend in his first annual message that, 
"beyond the small force which will probably be wanted 
for actual service in the Mediterranean [against the Bar- 

214 THE WAR OF 1812 

bary pirates], whatever annual sum you may think proper 
to appropriate to naval preparations would perhaps be 
better employed in providing those articles which may be 
kept without waste or consumption, and be in readiness 
when any exigence calls them into use. Progress has been 
made in providing materials for seventy-four gun ships ; " 
but this commended readiness issued in not laying their 
keels till after the war began. 

Upon this first recommendation followed the discontin- 
uance of building ships for ocean service, and the initiation 
of the gunboat policy; culminating, when war began, in 
the decision of the administration to lay up the ships built 
for war, to keep them out of British hands. The urgent 
remonstrances of two or three naval captains obtained the 
reversal of this resolve, and thereby procured for the coun- 
try those few successes which, by a common trick of 
memory, have remained the characteristic feature of the 
War of 1812. 

Note. — After writing the engagement between the " Boxer " and the 
" Enterprise," the author found among his memoranda, overlooked, the fol- 
lowing statement from the report of her surviving lieutenant, David McCreery : 
" I feel it my duty to mention that the bulwarks of the ' Enterprise ' were 
proof against our grape, when her musket balls penetrated through our bul- 
warks." (Canadian Archives, M. 389, 3. p. 87.) It will be noted that this 
does not apply to the cannon balls, and does not qualify the contrast in 



IN broad generalization, based upon analysis of condi- 
tions, it has been said that the seacoast of the United 
States was in 1812 a defensive frontier, from which, 
as from all defensive lines, there should be, and was, 
opportunity for offensive returns; for action planned to 
relieve the shore-line, and the general militaiy situation, 
by inflicting elsewhere upon the opponent injury, harass- 
ment, and perplexity. The last chapter dealt with the war- 
fare depending upon the seaboard chiefly from the defensive 
point of view ; to illustrate the difficulties, the blows, and 
the sufferings, to which the country was exposed, owing 
to inability to force the enemy away from any large por- 
tion of the coast The pressure was as universal as it 
was inexorable and irresistible. 

It remains still to consider the employment and effects 
of the one offensive maritime measure left open by the 
exigencies of the war; the cruises directed against the 
enemy's commerce, and the characteristic incidents to 
which they gave rise. In this pursuit were engaged both 
the national ships of war and those equipped by the enter- 
prise of the mercantile community ; but, as the operations 
were in their nature more consonant to the proper purpose 
of privateers, so the far greater number of these caused 
them to play a part much more considerable in effect, 
though proportionately less fruitful in conspicuous action. 
Fighting, when avoidable, is to the privateer a misdirection 

216 THE WAR OF 1812 

of energy. Profit is his object, by depredation upon the 
enemy's commerce; not the preservation of that of his 
own people. To the ship of war, on the other hand, pro- 
tection of the national shipping is the primary concern; 
and for that reason it becomes her to shun no encounter 
by which she may hope to remove from the seas a hostile 

The limited success of the frigates in their attempts 
against British trade has been noted, and attributed to the 
general fact that their cruises were confined to the more 
open sea, upon the highways of commerce. These were now 
travelled by British ships under strict laws of convoy, the 
effect of which was not merely to protect the several flocks 
concentrated under their particular watchdogs, but to strip 
the sea of those isolated vessels, that in time of peace rise 
in irregular but frequent succession above the horizon, 
covering the face of the deep with a network of tracks. 
These sohtary wayfarers were now to be found only as 
rare exceptions to the general rule, until the port of des- 
tination was approached. There the homing impulse over- 
bore the bonds of regulation; and the convoys tended to 
the conduct noted by Nelson as a captain, " behaving as all 
convoys that ever I saw did, shamefully ill, parting com- 
pany every day." Commodore John Rodgers has before 
been quoted, as observing that the British practice was to 
rely upon pressure on the enemy over sea, for security near 
home ; and that the waters surrounding the British Islands 
themselves were the field where commerce destruction 
could be most decisively effected. 

The first United States vessel to emphasize this fact was 
the brig " Argus," Captain William H. Allen, which sailed 
from New York June 18, 1813, having on board a newly 
appointed minister to France, Mr. William H. Crawford, 
recently a senator from Georgia. On July 11 she reached 
L'Orient, having in the twenty-three days of passage made 


but one prize.^ Three days later she proceeded to cruise in 
the chops of the English Channel, and against the local 
trade between Ireland and England ; continuing thus untU. 
August 14, thirty-one days, during which she captured 
nineteen sail, extending her depredations well up into St. 
George's Channel. The contrast of results mentioned, 
between her voyage across and her occupancy of British 
waters, illustrates the comparative advantages of the two 
scenes of operations, regarded in their relation to British 

On August 12 the British brig of war "Pelican," Cap- 
tain Maples, anchored at Cork from the West Indies. 
Before her sails were furled she received orders to go out 
in search of the American ship of war whose depredations 
had been reported. Two hours later she was again at sea. 
The following evening, at half-past seven, a burning vessel 
to the eastward gave direction to her course, and at day- 
break, August 14, she sighted a brig of war in the north- 
east, just quitting another prize, which had also been fired. 
The wind, being south, gave the windward position to the 
" Pelican," which stood in pursuit ; the " Argus " steering 
east, near the wind, but under moderate sail to enable her 
opponent to close (positions 1). The advantage in size 
and armament was on this occasion on the British side ; 
the "Pelican" being twenty per cent larger, and her 
broadside seventeen per cent heavier. 

At 5.55 A.M., St. David's Head on the coast of "Wales 
bearing east, distant about fifteen miles, the "Argus" 
wore, standing now to the westward, with the wind on the 
port side (2). The " Pelican " did the same, and the battle 
opened at six ; the vessels running side by side, within 
the range of grapeshot and musketrj-, — probably under two 
hundred yards apart (2). Within five minutes Captain 
Allen received a wound which cost him his leg, and in the 

1 Captain Allen to Navy Department. Niles' Register, vol. v. p. 46. 

218 THE WAR OF 1812 

end his life. He at first refused to be taken below, but 
loss of blood soon so reduced him that he could no longer 
exercise command. Ten minutes later the first lieutenant 
was stunned by the graze of a grapeshot along his head, 
and the charge of the ship devolved on the second. By 
this time the rigging of the " Argus " had been a good deal 
cut, and the "Pelican" bore up (3) to pass under her 
stern ; but the American brig, luffing close to the wind and 
backing her maintopsail (3), balked the attempt, throwing 
herself across the enemy's path, and giving a raking broad- 
side, the poor aim of which seems to have lost her the 
effect that should have resulted from this ready and neat 
manoeuvre. The main braces of the " Argus " had already 
been shot away, as well as much of the other gear upon 
which the after sails depended; and at 6.18 the preventer 
(duplicate) braces, which formed part of the preparation 
for battle, were also severed. The vessel thus became 
unmanageable, falhng off before the wind (4), and the 
" Pelican " was enabled to work round her at will. This 
she did, placing herself first under the stern (4), and then 
on the bow (5) of her antagonist, where the only reply to 
her broadside was with musketry. 

In this helpless situation the " Argus " surrendered, after 
an engagement of a little over three quarters of an hour. 
The British loss was two killed and five wounded; the 
American, six killed and seventeen wounded, of whom five 
afterwards died. Among these was Captain Allen, who 
survived only four days, and was buried with military 
honors at Plymouth, whither Captain Maples sent his 
prize.^ After every allowance for disparity of force, the 
injury done by the American fire cannot be deemed satis- 
factory, and suggests the consideration whether the voyage 

1 The American official report of this action can be found in Niles' Segis- 
ter, vol. viii. p. 43. The British is in the Naval Chronicle, vol. xxx. p. 247. 
Niles also gives it, vol. v. p. 118. 

"; O Argus 

^^ Pelican 

r'fc..^ ^—N 



/ ii^' 


to France under pressure of a diplomatic mission, and the 
busy preoccupation of making, manning, and firing prizes, 
during the brief month of Channel cruising, may not have 
interfered unduly with the more important requirements 
of fighting efficiency. The surviving officer in command 
mentions in explanation, " the superior size and metal of our 
opponent, and the fatigue which the crew of the ' Argus ' 
underwent from a very rapid succession of prizes." 

From the broad outlook of the universal maritime situa- 
tion, this rapid succession of captures is a matter of more 
significance than the loss of a single brig of war. It 
showed the vulnerable point of British trade and local 
intercommunication ; and the career of the " Argus," pre- 
maturely cut short though it was, tended to fix attention 
upon facts sufficiently well known, but perhaps not fully 
appreciated. From this time the opportunities offered by 
the English Channel and adjacent waters, long familiar to 
French corsairs, were better understood by Americans ; 
as was also the difficulty of adequately poUcing them 
against a number of swift and handy cruisers, preying 
upon merchant vessels comparatively slow, lumbering, and 
undermanned. The subsequent career of the United States 
ship "Wasp," and the audacious exploits of several priva- 
teers, recall the impunity of Paul Jones a generation be- 
fore, and form a sequel to the brief prelude, in which the 
leading part, though ultimately disastrous, was played by 
the " Argus." 

While the cruise of the " Argus " stood by no means 
alone at this time, the attending incidents made it con- 
spicuous among several others of a like nature, on the 
same scene or close by ; and it therefore may be taken as 
indicative of the changing character of the war, which soon 
began to be manifest, owing to the change of conditions in 
Europe. In general summar}^, the result was to transfer 
an additional weight of British naval operations to the 

220 THE WAR OF 1812 

American side of the Atlantic, which in turn compelled 
American cruisers, national and private, in pursuit of com- 
merce destruction, to get away from their own shores, 
and to seek comparative security as well as richer prey in 
distant waters. To this contributed also the increasing- 
stringency of British convoy regulation, enforced with 
special rigor in the Caribbean Sea and over the Western 
Atlantic. It was impossible to impose the same strict pre- 
scription upon the coastwise trade, by which chiefly the 
indispensable continuous intercourse between the several 
parts of the United Kingdom was maintained. Before the 
introduction of steam this had a consequence quite dispro- 
portionate to the interior traffic by land ; and its develop- 
ment, combined with the feeling of greater security as the 
British Islands were approached, occasioned in the narrow 
seas, and on the coasts of Europe, a dispersion of vessels 
not to be seen elsewhere. This favored the depredations of 
the light, swift, and handy cruisers that alone are capable 
of profiting by such an opportunity, through their power 
to 'evade the numerous, but necessarily scattered, ships of 
war, which under these circumstances must patrol the sea, 
like a watchman on beat, as the best substitute for the 
more formal and regularized convoy protection, when that 
ceases to apply. 

From the end of the summer of 1813, when this tendency 
to distant enterprise became predominant, to the correspond- 
ing season a year later, there were captured by American 
cruisers some six hundred and fifty British vessels, chiefly 
merchantmen ; a number which had increased to between 
four and five hundred more, when the war ended in the 
following winter.! An intelligible account of such multi- 
tudinous activities can be framed only by selecting amid 
the mass some illustrative particulars, accompanied by a 

1 The prize data have been taken from the successive volumes of Niles* 


general estimate of the conditions they indicate and the 
results they exemplify. Thus it may be stated, with fair 
approach to precision, that from September 30, 1813, to 
September 30, 1814, there were taken six hundred and 
thirty-nine British vessels, of which four hundred and 
twenty-four were in seas that may be called remote from 
the United States. From that time to the end of the war, 
about six months, the total captures were four hundred and 
fourteen, of which those distant were two hundred and 
ninety-three. These figures, larger actually and in impres- 
sion than they are relatively to the total of British shipping, 
represent the offensive maritime action of the United States 
during the period in question ; but, in considering them, it 
must be remembered that such results were possible only 
because the sea was kept open to British commerce by the 
paramount power of the British navy. This could not pre- 
vent all mishaps ; but it reduced them, by the annihilation 
of hostile navies, to such a small percentage of the whole 
shipping movement, that the British mercantile community 
found steady profit both in foreign and coasting trade, of 
which the United States at the same time was almost 
totally deprived. 

The numerous but beggarly array of American bay-craft 
and oyster boats, which were paraded to swell British prize 
lists, till there seemed to be a numerical set-off to their 
own losses, show indeed that in point of size and value of 
vessels taken there was no real comparison ; but this was 
due to the fact, not at once suggested by the figures them- 
selves, that there were but few American merchant vessels 
to be taken, because they did not dare to go to sea, with the 
exception of the few to whom exceptional speed gave a 
chance of immunity, not always realized. In the period 
under consideration, September, 1813, to September, 1814, 
despite the great falling off of trade noted in the returns, 
over thirty American merchant ships and letters of marque 

222 THE WAR OF 1812 

were captured at sea ; ^ at the head of the list being the 
"Ned," whose hair-breadth escapes in seeking to reach a 
United States port have been mentioned already.^ She 
met her fate near the French coast, September 6, 1813, on 
the outward voyage from New York to Bordeaux. Priva- 
teering, risky though it was, offered a more profitable em- 
ployment, with less chance of capture ; because, besides 
being better armed and manned, the ship was not impeded 
in her sailing by the carriage of a heavy cargo. While the 
enemy was losing a certain small proportion of vessels, the 
United States suffered practically an entire deprivation of 
external commerce ; and her coasting trade was almost 
wholly suppressed, at the time that her cruisers, national 
and private, were causing exaggerated anxiety concerning 
the intercourse between Great Britain and Ireland, which, 
though certainly molested, was not seriously interrupted. 

Further evidence of the control exerted by the British 
Navy, and of the consequent difficulty under which offensive 
action was maintained by the United States, is to be found 
in the practice, from this time largely followed, of destroy- 
ing prizes, after removing from them packages of little 
weight compared to their price. The prospect of a captured 
vessel reaching an American port was very doubtful, for 
the same reason that prevented the movement of American 
commerce; and while the risk was sometimes run, it 
usually was with cargoes which were at once costly and 
bulky, such as West India goods, sugars and coffees. Even 
then specie, and light costly articles, were first removed to 
the cruiser, where the chances for escape were decidedly 
better. Recourse to burning to prevent recapture was 
permissible only with enemy's vessels. If a neutral were 
found carrying enemy's goods, a frequent incident of mari- 
time war, she must be sent in for adjudication ; which, 

1 Data concerning American vessels captured by British sliips have been 
drawn chiefly from prize lists, or official reports, in the Naval Chronicle. 

2 Ante, p. 19. 

Drajcn by Henry Reuterdnhl. 


if adverse, affected the cargo only. Summary processes, 
therefore, could not be applied in such cases, and the close 
blockade of the United States coast seriously restricted the 
opei-ations of her cruisers in this particular field. 

Examination of the records goes to show that, although 
individual American vessels sometimes made numerous 
seizures in rapid succession, they seldom, if ever, effected 
the capture or destruction of a large convoy at a single 
blow. This was the object with which Rodgers started on 
his first cruise, but failed to accomplish. A stroke of this 
kind is always possible, and he had combined conditions 
unusually favorable to his hopes ; but, while history cer- 
tainly presents a few instances of such achievement on the 
large scale, they are comparatively rare, and opportunity, 
when it offers, can be utilized only by a more numerous 
force than at any subsequent time gathered under the 
American flag. In 1813 two privateers, the " Scourge " of 
Kew York and " Rattlesnake " of Philadelphia, passed the 
summer in the North Sea, and there made a number of 
prizes, — twenty-two, — which being reported together gave 
the impression of a single lucky encounter ; were supposed in 
fact to be the convoy for which Rodgers in the " President " 
had looked unsuccessfully the same season.^ The logs, 
however, showed that these captures were spread over a 
period of two months, and almost all made severally. Nor- 
way being then politically attached to Denmark, and hostile 
to Great Britain, such prizes as were not burned were 
sent into her ports. The " Scourge " appears to have been 
singularly fortunate, for on her homeward trip she took, 
sent in, or destroyed, ten more enemy's vessels ; and in an 
absence extending a little over a year had taken four 
hundred and twenty prisoners, — more than the crew of a 
38-gun frigate .2 

* Niles' Register, voL v. p. 175. 

' Niles gives an abstract of the log of the " Scourge," vol. vi. p. 269. 

224 THE WAR OF 1812 

At the same time the privateer schooner " Leo," of Balti- 
more, was similarly successful on the coast of Spain and 
Portugal. By an odd coincidence, another of the same class, 
bearing the nearly identical name, " Lion," was operating at 
the same time in the same waters, and with like results ; 
which may possibly account for a contemporary report in a 
London paper, that an American off the Tagus had taken 
thirty-two British vessels. The " Leo " destroyed thirteen, 
and took four others ; while the " Lion " destroyed fifteen, 
having first removed from them cargo to the amount of 
$400,000, which she carried safely into France. A curious 
circumstance, incidental to the presence of the privateers 
off Cape Finisterre, is that Wellington's troops, which had 
now passed the Pyrenees and were operating in southern 
France, had for a long time to wait for their great-coats, 
which had been stored in Lisbon for the summer, and now 
could not be returned by sea to Bayonne and Bordeaux be- 
fore convoy was furnished to protect the transports against 
capture. Money to pay the troops, and for the com- 
missariat, was similarly detained. Niles' Register, which 
followed carefully the news of maritime capture, an- 
nounced in November, 1813, that eighty British vessels had 
been taken within a few months in European seas by the 
" President," " Argus," and five privateers. Compared 
with the continuous harassment and loss to which the 
enemy had become hardened during twenty years of war 
with France, allied often with other maritime states, this 
result, viewed singly, was not remarkable ; but coming in 
addition to the other sufferings of British trade, and asso- 
ciated with similar injuries in the West Indies, and disquiet 
about the British seas themselves, the cumulative effect 
was undeniable, and found voice in public meetings, res- 
olutions, and addresses to the Government. 

Although the United States was not in formal alliance 
with France, the common hostility made the ports of either 


nation a base of operations to the other, and much facili- 
tated the activities of American cruisers in British seas. 
One of the most successful of the privateers, the " True 
Blooded Yankee," was originally equipped at Brest, under 
American ownership, though it does not appear whether 
she was American built. On her first cruise her prizes 
are reported at twenty-seven. She remained out thirty- 
seven days, chiefly off the coast of Ireland, where she is said 
to have held an island for six days. Afterwards she burned 
several vessels in a Scotch harbor. Her procedure illus- 
trates the methods of privateering in more respects than 
one. Thus, two large ships, one from Smyrna and one 
from Buenos Ayres, were thought sufficiently valuable to 
attempt sending into a French port, although the enemy 
watched the French coast as rigorously as the American. 
The recapture of a third, ordered to Aforlaix, received 
specific mention, because one of the prize crew, being found 
to be an Englishman, was sentenced to death by an Enghsh 
court.^ Eight others were destroyed; and, when the pri- 
vateer returned to port, she carried in her own hold a 
miscellaneous cargo of light goods, too costly to risk in 
a less nimble bottom. Among these are named eighteen 
bales of Turkey carpets, forty-three bales of raw silk, 
seventy packs of skins, etc.^ The " True Blooded Yankee " 
apparently continued to prefer European waters ; for 
towards the end of 1814 she was taken there and sent 
into Gibraltar. 

While there were certain well-known districts, such as 
these just mentioned, and others before specified, in which 
from causes constant in operation there was always to be 
found abundant material for the hazardous occupation of 
the commerce-destroyer, it was not to them alone that 
American cruisers went. There were other smaller but 
lucrative fields, into which an occasional irruption proved 

1 Niles' Register, vol. t. p. 90. 2 Ibid., vol. vi. p. 69. 

VOL. II. — 15 

226 THE WAR OF 1812 

profitable. Such were the gold-coast on the west shore of 
Africa, and the island groups of Madeira, the Canaries, 
and Cape Verde, which geographically appertain to that 
continent. Thither Captain Morris directed the frigate 
" Adams," in January, 1814, after first escaping from his 
long blockade in the Potomac. This voyage, whence he 
returned to Savannah in April, was not remunerative ; his 
most valuable prize, an East India ship, being snatched out 
of his hands, when in the act of taking possession, by an 
enemy's division in charge of a convoy of twenty-five sail, 
to which probably she had belonged, and had been sepa- 
rated by the thick weather that permitted her capture.^ A 
year before this the privateer " Yankee," of Bristol, Rhode 
Island, had had better success. When she returned to Nar- 
ragansett Bay in the spring of 1813, after a five months' 
absence, she reported having scoured the whole west coast 
of Africa, taking eight vessels, which carried in the aggre- 
gate sixty-two guns, one hundred and ninety-six men, 
and property to the amount of $296,000. In accord- 
ance with the practice already noticed, of distributing the 
spoil in order better to insure its arrival, she brought back 
in her own hold the light but costly items of six tons of 
ivory, thirty-two bales of fine goods, and $40,000 in gold- 
dust.2 This vessel was out again several times ; and when 
the war closed was said to have been the most successful 
of all American cruisers. Her prizes numbered forty, of 
which thirty-four were ships or brigs ; that is, of the larger 
classes of merchantmen then used. The estimated value 
of themselves and cargoes, $3,000,000, is to be received 
with reserve.^ 

It was in this neighborhood that the privateer schooner 
" Globe," Captain Moon, of Baltimore, mounting eight 9- 
pounder carronades and one long gun, met with an adven- 

1 For Morris' letter see Niles' Register, vol. vi. p. 1 80. 

2 Ibid., vol. iv. p. 86. » Ibid., vol. vii. p. 366. 


ture illustrative of the fighting incidental to the business. 
To this the privateersmen as a class were in no wise loath, 
where there was a fair prospect of the gain for which they 
were sent to look. Being off Funchal, in the island of 
Madeii-a, November 1, 1813, two brigs, which proved to be 
English packets, the " Montague " and " Pelham," were 
seen " backing and filling ; " that is, keeping position iu 
the open roadstead which constitutes the harbor, under 
sail, but not anchored. Packets, being in government ser- 
vice, were well armed for their size, and as mail carriers 
were necessarily chosen for speed ; they therefore fre- 
quently carried specie. In one taken by the " Essex," 
Captain Porter found $55,000, which as ready cash helped 
him much to pay his frigate's way in a long and adventur- 
ous career. It does not appear that the " Globe " at first 
recognized the character of these particular vessels ; but 
she lay-by during the night, watching for their quitting the 
shelter of neutral waters. This they did at 9 p.m., when 
the privateer pursued, but lost sight of them in a squall. 
The next morning they were seen in the southwest, and 
again chased. At 10.15 a.m. the " Montague " began firing 
her stern guns. The schooner replied, but kept on to 
board, knowing her superiority in men, and at 12.30 ran 
alongside (1). The attack being smartly met, and the ves- 
sels separating almost immediately, the attempt failed 
disastrously ; there being left on board the packet the two 
lieutenants of the " Globe " and three or four seamen. Im- 
mediately upon this repulse, the " Pelham " crossed the 
privateer's bow and raked her (P 2), dealing such destruc- 
tion to sails and rigging as to leave her unmanageable. 
The " Montague " and " Globe " now lay broadside to 
broadside (2), engaging ; and ten minutes later the " Mon- 
tague " by her own report was completely disabled (M 3). 
Captain Moon claimed that she struck ; and this was prob- 
ably the case, if his further incidental mention, that the 

228 THE WAR OF 1812 

mailbags were seen to be thrown overboard, is not a mistake. 
The action then continued with the " Pelham," within 
pistol-shot (3), for an hour or so, when the schooner, being 
found in a sinking condition, was compelled to haul off ; 
" having seven shot between wind and water, the greater 
part of our standing and running rigging shot away, and 
not a sail but was perfectly riddled and almost useless." 
After separating, the several combatants all steered with 
the tradewinds for the Canaries ; the British going to 
Teneriffe, and the American to the Grand Canary.^ 

From the injuries received, it is apparent that, for the 
armaments of the vessels, this was a very severe as well 
as determined engagement. The British had six killed 
and twelve wounded; the American five killed and thir- 
teen wounded, besides the prisoners lost in boarding. All 
three captains were severely hurt, that of the "Montague" 
being killed. The figures given are those reported by each 
side ; how exaggerated the rumors current about such en- 
counters, and the consequent difficulty to the historian, is 
shown by what each heard about the other's casualties. 
A Spanish brig from Teneriffe told Moon that the enemy 
had twenty-seven men killed ; while the British were equally 
credibly informed tliat the " Globe " lost thirty-three killed 
and nineteen wounded. 

Near about this time, in the same neighborhood of 
Madeira, the privateer schooner " Governor Tompkins," 
of New York, captured in rapid succession three British 
merchant vessels which had belonged to a convoy from 
England to Buenos Ayres, but after its dispersal in a gale 
were pursuing their route singly. Two of these reached 
an American port, their bulky and heavy ladings of dry 
goods and hardware not permitting transfer or distribution. 
The sale of one cargo realized $270,000.^ At about the 

1 Niles' Register, vol. v. p. 413. Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxi. p. 25. 

2 Niles' Register, vol. v. p. 414 ; vol. vi. p. 151. 

M Montague 
P Pelham 
G Globe 


\ 03 




M2 T^tZD 





same moment came in a brig of like value, not improbably 
another wanderer from the same group, captured near Ma- 
deira by the ship " America," of Salem. This vicinity, 
from the islands to the equator, between 20° and 30° west 
longitude, belongs essentially to the thronged highway and 
cross-roads of commerce, which has been noted as a favor- 
ite cruising ground of American ships of war. Hereabouts 
passed vessels both to and from the East Indies and South 
America. The bad luck of several frigates, and the rough 
handling of the " Globe " by the packets, illustrate one side 
of the fortune of war, as the good hap of the " America '* 
and " Governor Tompkins " shows the other. 

It is, however, the beginnings and endings of commercial 
routes, rather than the intermediate stretch, which most 
favor enterprises against an enemy's trade. In the throng- 
ing of vessels, the Caribbean Sea, tv^ith its teeming archipel- 
ago, was second only, if second, to the waters surrounding 
the United Kingdom. England was one extremity, and the 
several West India Islands the other, of a traffic then one 
of the richest in the world ; while the tropical articles of 
this exchange, if not absolute necessaries of life, had become 
by long indulgence indispensable to the great part of civil- 
ized mankind. Here, therefore, the numbers, the efforts, 
and the successes of American privateers most nearly 
rivalled the daring achievements of their fellows in the 
NaiTow Seas and the approaches to Great Britain and 
Ireland. The two regions resembled each other in another 
respect. Not only was there for both an external trade, 
mainly with one another, but in each there was also a 
local traffic of distribution and collection of goods, from and 
to central ports, in which was concentrated the movement 
of import and export. As has been remarked concerning 
the coastwise carriage of the United Kingdom, this local 
intercourse, to be efficient, could not be regulated and 
hampered to the same extent as the long voyage, over-sea, 

230 THE WAR OF 1812 

transportation. A certain amount of freedom and inde- 
pendence was essential, and the risk attendant upon such 
separate action must be compensated, as far as might be, 
by diminishing the size of the vessels engaged ; a resource 
particularly applicable to the moderate weather and quiet 
seas prevalent in the tropics. 

Both the exposure of trade under such relaxed conditions, 
and the relative security obtained by the convoy system, 
rigidly applied, are shown by a few facts. From Septem- 
ber 1, 1813, to March 1, 1814, six months, the number 
of prizes taken by Americans, exclusive of those on the 
Lakes, was reported as two hundred and seventy. Of 
these, nearly one third — eighty-six — were to, from, or 
within the West Indies. Since in many reports the place 
of capture is not given, nor any data sufficient to fix it, it 
is probable that quite one third belonged to this trade. 
This evidences the scale, both of the commerce itself and 
of its pursuers, justifying a contemporary statement that 
" the West Indies swarm with American privateers ; " and 
it suggests also that many of the seizures were local traders 
between the islands, or at least vessels taking their chance 
on short runs. On the other hand, the stringency with 
which the local officials enforced the Convoy Act was 
shown, generally, by the experience at this time of the 
United States naval vessels, the records of which, unlike 
those of most privateers, have been preserved by filing 
or publication ; and, specifically, by a number of papers 
found in a prize by the United States frigate " Constitu- 
tion," Captain Charles Stewart, while making a round of 
these watei-s in the first three months of 1814. Among 
other documents was a petition, signed by many merchants 
of Demerara, praying convoy for fifty-one vessels which 
were collected and waiting for many weary weeks, as often 
had to be done. In one letter occurs the following : " With 
respect to procuring a license for the " Fanny " to run it, in 


case any other ships should be about to do so, we do not 
believe that, out of forty vessels ready to sail, any applica- 
tion has been made for such license, though out of the num- 
ber are several out-port vessels well armed and manned. 
Indeed, we are aware application would be perfectly use- 
less, as the present Governor, when at Berbice, would not 
permit a vessel from that colony to this [adjoining] with- 
out convoy. If we could obtain a license, we could not 
justify ourselves to shippers, who have ordered insurance 
with convoy." ^ 

The expense and embarrassment incident to such deten- 
tions are far-reaching, and the effects are as properly 
chargeable as are captures themselves to the credit of the 
cruisers, by the activity of which they are occasioned. 
The " Constitution " could report only four prizes as the 
result of a three months' cruise, necessarily shortened by 
the approach of spring. This made it imperative for a 
vessel, denied admission to most home ports by her draught 
of water, to recover the shelter of one of them before the 
blockade again began, and the exhaustion of her provisions 
should compel her to attempt entrance under risk of an 
engagement with superior force. As it was, she was chased 
into Salem, and had to lighten ship to escape. But Stewart 
had driven an enemy's brig of war into Surinam, chased a 
packet off Barbados, and a frigate in the Mona Passage ; 
and the report of these occurrences, wherever received, 
imposed additional precaution, delay, and expense. 

At the same time that the " Constitution " was passing 
through the southern Caribbean, the naval brigs " Rattle- 
snake " and " Enterprise " were searching its northern 
limits. These had put out from Portsmouth, New Hamp- 
shire, when the winter weather drove the blockaders from 
there, as from Boston, whence the " Constitution " had 

1 Stewart's Letter is dated April 4, 1814, and, with the enclosures men- 
tioned, will be found among the Captains' Letters, Navy Department MSS. 

232 THE WAR OF 1812 

sailed. Starting early in January, 1814, these two light cruis- 
ers kept company, passing east of Bermuda to the island 
of St. Thomas, at the northeast corner of the Caribbean. 
Thence they turned west, skirting the north shores of Porto 
Rico and Santo Domingo as far as the Windward Passage. 
Through this they entered the Caribbean, followed the 
south coast of Cuba, between it and Jamaica, rounded 
Cape San Antonio, at its western extremity, and thence, 
traversing the Straits of Florida, returned along the coast 
of the United States. Having already been chased twice 
in this cruise, they were compelled by a third pursuer to 
separate, February 25. The stranger chose to keep after 
the " Enterprise," which being a very dull sailer was obliged 
in a flight of seventy hours to throw overboard most of 
her battery to escape. The two put into Wilmington, 
North CaroUna, a port impracticable to a frigate.* 

In this long round the brigs overhauled eleven vessels, 
two only of which were under the British flag. Two were 
Americans ; the rest neutrals, either Swedes or Spaniards. 
Of the two enemies, only one was a merchant ship. 
The other was a privateer, the chase of which gave rise to 
a curious and significant incident. Being near the Florida 
coast, and thinking the brigs to be British, twenty or thirty 
of the crew took to the boats and fled ashore to escape 
anticipated impressment. As Marryat remarks, a British 
private vessel of that day feared a British ship of war 
more than it did an enemy of equal force. Of the neutrals 
stopped, one was in possession of a British prize crew, and 
another had on board enemy's goods. For these reasons 
they were sent in for adjudication, and arrived safely. 
Judged by these small results from the several cruises of the 
" Enterprise," " Rattlesnake," and " Constitution," the large 
aggregate of captures before quoted, two hundred and sev- 

1 For the official reports of this cruise, and list of prizes, see Niles, vol. vi. 
pp. 69-71. 


enty, would indicate that to effect them required a great 
number of ciuisei-s, national and private. That this infer- 
ence is correct will be shown later, by some interesting and 
instructive figures. 

While the making of prizes was the primary concern of 
the American privateers, their cruises in the "West Indies, 
as elsewhere, gave rise to a certain amount of hard fight- 
ing. One of the most noted of these encounters, that of 
the schooner " Decatur," of Charleston, with the man-of-war 
schooner " Dominica," can hardly be claimed for the United 
States ; for, though fought under the flag, her captain, Diron, 
was French, as were most of the crew. The " Dominica " 
was in company with a King's packet, which she was to 
convoy part of the way to England from St. Thomas. On 
August 5, 1813, the " Decatur " met the two about three 
hundred miles north of the island. The British vessel was 
superior in armament, having fifteen guns ; all carronades, 
except two long sixes. The " Decatur's " battery was six 
carronades, and one long 18-pounder. For long distances 
the latter was superior in carrying power and penetration 
to anything on board the " Dominica ; " but the American 
captain, knowing himself to have most men, sought to 
board, and the artillery combat was therefore mainly at 
close quarters, within carronade range. It began at 2 p.m. 
At 2.30 the schooners were within half-gunshot of one 
another ; the " Dominica " in the position of being chased, 
because of the necessity of avoiding the evident intention 
of the " Decatur " to come hand to hand. Twice the latter 
tried to run alongside, and twice was foiled by watchful 
steering, accompanied in each case by a broadside which 
damaged her rigging and sails, besides killing two of her 
crew. The third attempt was successful, the " Decatur's " 
bow commg against the quarter of the "Dominica," the 
jib-boom passing through her mainsail. The crew of the 
privateer clambered on board, and there followed a hand- 

234 THE WAR OF 1812 

to-hand fight equally honorable to both parties. The 
British captain, Lieutenant Barrett^, a young man of 
twenty-five, who had already proved his coolness and skill 
in the management of the action, fell at the head of his 
men, of whom sixty out of a total of eighty-eight were 
killed or wounded before their colors were struck. The 
assailants, who numbered one hundred and three, lost 
nineteen. The packet, though armed, took no part in the 
fight, and when it was over effected her escape.^ The 
" Decatur " with her prize reached Charleston safely, August 
20 ; bringing also a captured merchantman. The moment 
of arrival was most opportune ; two enemy's brigs, which 
for some time had been blockading the harbor, having left 
only the day before. 

In March, 1814, the privateer schooner " Comet," of 
Baltimore, not being able to make her home port, put into 
Wilmington, North Carolina. She had been cruising in 
the West Indies, and had there taken twenty vessels, most 
of which were destroyed after removing valuables. In the 
course of her operations she encountered near St. Thomas 
the British ship " Hibernia ; " the size of which, and her 
height above the water, by preventing boarding, enabled 
her successfully to repel attack, and the privateer was 
obliged to haul off, having lost three men killed and thir- 
teen wounded. The American account of this affair ascribes 
twenty-two guns to the "Hibernia." The British story 
says that she had but six, with a crew of twenty-two men ; 
of whom one was killed and eleven wounded. The impor- 
tance of the matter in itself scarcely demands a serious 
attempt to reconcile this discrepancy ; and it is safer to 
accept each party's statement of his own force. The two 
agree that the action lasted eight or nine hours, and that 
both were much cut up. It is evident also from each 
narrative that they lay alongside most of the time, which 

1 Niles' Register, vol. v. pp. 14, 15. Naval Chronicle, vol. xxx. p. 348. 


makes it probable that the ship's height saved her from 
being overborne by superior numbers. 

The " Saucy Jack," of Charleston, passed through sev- 
eral severe combats, in one of which she was even worse 
mauled than the " Comet " in the instance just cited. On 
April 30, 1814, off St. Nicolas Mole, in the Windward Pas- 
sage between Cuba and Santo Domingo, she met the British 
ship " Pelham," a vessel of five hundred and forty tons, and 
mounting ten guns, bound from London to Port au Prince. 
The " Pelham " fought well, and the action lasted two 
hours, at the end of which she was carried by boarding. 
Her forty men were overpowered by numbers, but never- 
theless still resisted with a resolution which commanded 
the admiration of the victors. She lost four killed and 
eleven wounded ; among the latter her captain, danger- 
ously. The privateer had two killed and nine wounded. 
Both vessels reached Charleston safely, and the " Saucy 
Jack" at once fitted out again. It is told that, between 
daylight and dark of the day she began to enlist, one hun- 
dred and thirty able-bodied seamen had shipped ; and this 
at a time when the navy with difficulty found crews.^ 

The " Saucy Jack " returned to the West Indies for 
another cruise, in which she encountered one of those 
rude deceptions which privateers often experienced. She 
had made already eight prizes, for one of which, the ship 
-" Amelia," she had had to fight vigorously, killing four 
and wounding five of the enemy, while herself sustaining a 
loss of one killed and one wounded, when on October 31, 
1814, about 1 A.M., being then off Cape Tiburon at the 
west end of Haiti, she sighted two vessels standing to the 
westward. Chase was made, and an hour later the priva- 
teer opened fire. The strangers replied, at the same time 
shortening sail, which looked ominous; but the "Saucy 
Jack," willing to justify her name, kept on to close. At 

^ Niles' Register, vol. vi. pp. 225, 371. 

236 THE WAR OF 1812 

6 A.M., having arrived within a few hundred yards, the 
enemy were seen to be well armed, but appeared not to be 
well manned. At seven, by which time it was daylight, 
the " Saucy Jack " began an engagement with the nearer, 
and ten minutes later ran her alongside, when she was 
found to be full of soldiers. The privateer sheered off 
at once, and took to her heels, followed by an incessant 
fire of grape and musketry from those whom she had re- 
cently pursued. This awkward position, which carried 
the chance of a disabling shot and consequent capture, 
lasted till eight, when the speed of the schooner took her 
out of range, having had in all eight men killed and fifteen 
wounded ; two round shot in the hull, and spars and rig- 
ging much cut up. It was afterwards ascertained that her 
opponent was the "Volcano" bombship, convoying the 
transport " Golden Fleece," on board which were two hun- 
dred and fifty troops from Chesapeake Bay for Jamaica. 
The "Volcano" lost an officer and two men killed, and 
two wounded ; proving that under somewhat awkward cir- 
cumstances the " Saucy Jack " could give as well as take.^ 
A little later in this season a group of nine sail, from 
the West Indies for Europe, was encountered by the priva- 
teer " Kemp," of Baltimore, broad off the coast of North. 
Carolina. Excluded, like the " Comet " and others, from 
return to the port where she belonged, the " Kemp " had 
been in Wilmington, which she left November 29, 1814 ; 
the strangers being sighted at 8 a.m. December 1. One 
was a convoying frigate, which, when the " Kemp " pur- 
sued, gave chase and drove her off that afternoon. The 
privateer outran her pursuer, and during the night by 
devious courses gave her the slip; thereupon steering for 
the position where she judged she would again fall in with 
the merchant vessels. In this she was successful, at day- 

1 Niles' Register, vol. vii. p. 293, gives both the American and British, 


light discovering them, — three ships, three brigs, and 
two schooners. At 11 a.m. one ship was overtaken, but 
proving to be Spanish, from Havana to Hamburg, was 
allowed to proceed, while the " Kemp " again followed the 
others. At noon they were five miles to windward, drawn 
up in a line to fight ; for in those days of war and piracy 
most merchant ships carried at least a few guns for de- 
fence, and in this case their numbers, combined in mutual 
support, might effect a successful resistance. At two they 
took the initiative, bearing down together and attacking. 
The " Kemp " engaged them all, and in half an hour 
the untrained squadron was naturally in confusion. One 
after the other, six of the seven were boarded, or with- 
out waiting to be attacked struck their colors as the 
schooner drew up ; but while four were being taken into 
possession, the two others seized the opportunity and 
made off. Two ships and two brigs remained in the hands 
of the captor. All were laden with sugar and coffee, 
valuable at any time, but especially so in the then desti- 
tute condition of the United States. After this unusual, 
if not wholly unique, experience, the " Kemp " returned 
to port, having been absent only six days. Her prisoners 
amounted to seventy-one, her own crew being fifty-three. 
The separation of the escort from the convoy, the subse- 
quent judicious search for the latter, and the completeness 
of the result, constitute this a very remarkable instance of 
good management accompanied by good fortune; success 
deserved and achieved.^ 

The privateer brig "Chasseur," of Baltimore, Captain 
Thomas Boyle, was one of the typically successful and re- 
nowned cruisers of the time. She carried a battery of 
sixteen 12-pounder carronades, and in the course of 
the war thirty prizes are credited to her. In the late 
summer of 1814 she cruised off the coast of Great Britain 

^ Niles' Register, vol vii. p. 293. 

238 THE WAR OF 1812 

and Ireland, returning at the end of October ; having made 
eighteen captures during an absence of three months. 
From these she paroled and sent in by cartels one hundred 
and fifty prisoners, bringing back with her forty-three, of 
whom she had not been able thus to rid herself .^ After 
refitting she went to the West Indies for a winter cruise, 
which extended from the Windward Islands to the neigh- 
borhood of Havana. Here she signalized the approaching 
end of her career by an action, fought after peace not only 
had been concluded at Ghent, but already was known in 
the United States. On February 26, 1815, at 11 a.m., 
being then twenty miles east of Havana, and six miles 
from the Cuban coast, a schooner was seen in the north- 
east (1), running down before the northeast trade-wind. 
Sail was made to intercept her (2), there being at the time 
visible from the " Chasseur's " masthead a convoy lying-to 
off Havana, information concerning which probably ac- 
counts for her presence at this spot. The chase steered 
more to the northward (2), bringing the wind on her star- 
board side, apparently wishing to avoid a meeting. The 
" Chasseur " followed her motions, and when within about 
three miles the stranger's foretopmast went over the side, 
showing the press of sail she was carrying. After clearing 
the wreck she hauled close on the wind, heading northerly. 
At 1 P.M., she began to fire her stern gun and showed 
British colors ; but only three port-holes were visible on 
her port side, — towards the "Chasseur." 

Believing from appearances that he had before him a 
weakly armed vessel making a passage, and seeing but few 
men on her deck, Captain Boyle pressed forward without 
much preparation and under all sail. At 1.26 p.m. the 
" Chasseur " had come within pistol-shot (3), on the 
port side, when the enemy disclosed a tier of ten poits and 
opened his broadside, with round shot, grape, and musket 

1 Niles' Register, vol. vii. pp. 128,290. 

' 7S 

i 0'' 

1 1 
/ 1 
/ 1 

/ V 

/ V 







St. Lawrence 


balls. The American schooner, having much way on, shot 
ahead, and as she was to leeward in doing so, the British 
vessel kept off quickly (4) to run under her stem and 
rake. This was successfully avoided by imitating the 
movement (4), and the two were again side by side, but 
with the "Chasseur" now to the right (5). The action 
continued thus for about ten minutes, when Boyle found 
his opponent's battery too heavy for him. He therefore 
ran alongside (6), and in the act of boarding the enemy 
struck. She proved to be the British schooner " St. 
Lawrence," belonging to the royal navy; formeriy a re- 
nowned Philadelphia privateer, the " Atlas." Her battery, 
one long 9-pounder and fourteen 12-pounder carronades, 
would have been no very unequal match for the six- 
teen of her antagonist ; but the " Chasseur " had been 
obliged recently to throw overboard ten of these, while 
hard chased b}'^ the Barrosa frigate, and had replaced them 
with some 9-pounders from a prize, for which she had 
no proper projectiles. The complement allowed the " St. 
Lawrence " was seventy-five, though it does not seem cer- 
tain that all were on board; and she was carrying also 
some soldiers, marines, and naval officers, bound to New 
Orleans, in ignorance probably of the disastrous end of 
that expedition. The " Chasseur " had eighty-nine men, 
besides several boys. The British loss reported by her 
captain was six killed and seventeen wounded ; the Ameri- 
can, five killed and eight wounded.^ 

This action was very creditably fought on both sides, but 
to the American captain belongs the meed of having not 
only won success, but deserved it. His sole mistake was 
the over-confidence in what he could see, which made him 
a victim to the very proper ruse practised by his antago- 
nist in concealing his force. His manceuvring was prompt, 
ready, and accurate ; that of the British vessel was like- 

1 Niles' Register, vol. viii. p. 61. 

240 THE WAR OF 1812 

wise good, but a greater disproportion of injury should have 
resulted from her superior battery. In reporting the affair 
to his owners, Captain Boyle said, apologetically : " I should 
not willingly, perhaps, have sought a contest with a King's 
vessel, knowing that is not our object ; but my expecta- 
tions at first were a valuable vessel, and a valuable cargo 
also. When I found myself deceived, the honor of the flag 
intrusted to my care was not to be disgraced by flight." 
The feeling expressed was modest as well as spirited, and 
Captain Boyle's handsome conduct merits the mention 
that the day after the action, when the captured schooner 
was released as a cartel to Havana, in compassion to her 
wounded, the commander of the " St. Lawrence " gave 
him a letter, in the event of his being taken by a British 
cruiser, testifying to his " obliging attention and watchful 
solicitude to preserve our effects, and render us comfort- 
able during the short time we were in his possession ; " in 
which, he added, the captain " was carefully seconded by 
all his officers."^ 

These instances, occurring either in the West Indies, or, 
in the case of the " Kemp," affecting vessels which had just 
loaded there, are sufficient, when taken in connection with 
those before cited from other quarters of the globe, to illus- 
trate the varied activities and fortunes of privateering. The 
general subject, therefore, need not further be pursued. It 
will be observed that in each case the cruiser acts on the 
offensive; being careful, however, in choosing the object 

1 It may not be amiss here to quote an incident similarly creditable to 
privateersmen, a class usually much abused, and too often with good cause. 
It was told by a British colonel to Colonel Winfield Scott, while a prisoner in 
Canada. This gentleman with his wife had been passengers from P^ngland 
in a transport captured near Halifax by an American privateer. Although 
there was no fighting, the wife, who was in a critical state of health, was dan- 
gerously affected by the attendant alarm. As soon as the circumstances were 
mentioned to the captain of the cruiser, he placed at the husband's disposition 
all that part of the vessel where their quarters were, posting a sentry to 
prevent intrusion and to secure all their personal effec-ts from molestation. 
Scott's Autobiography, vol. i. p. 70. 


of attack, to avoid armed ships, the capture of which seems 
unlikely to yield pecuniary profit adequate to the risk. The 
gallantry and skiU of Captain Boyle of the " Chasseur " 
made particularly permissible to him the avowal, that only 
mistake of judgment excused his committing himself to an 
encounter which held out no such promise ; and it may be 
believed that the equally capable Captain Diron, if free to 
do as he pleased, would have chosen the packet, and not 
her escort the "Dominica," as the object of his pursuit. 
This the naval schooner of course could not permit. It 
was necessary, therefore, first to fight her; and, although 
she was beaten, the result of the action was to insure 
the escape of the ship under her charge. These examples 
define exactly the spirit and aim of privateering, and 
distinguish them from the motives inspiring the ship of 
war. The object of the privateer is profit by capture; 
to which fighting is only incidental, and where avoidable 
is blamable. The mission of a navy on the other hand 
is primarily military ; and while custom permitted the 
immediate captor a share in the proceeds of his prizes, 
the taking of them was in conception not for direct gain, 
personal or national, but for injury to the enemy. 

It may seem that, even though the ostensible motive 
was not the same, the two courses of operation followed 
identical methods, and in outcome were indistinguishable. 
This is not so. However subtle the working of the desire 
for gain upon the individual naval officer, leading at times 
to acts of doubtful propriety, the tone and spirit of a pro- 
fession, even when not clearly formulated in phrase and 
definition, will assert itself in the determination of personal 
conduct. The dominating sense of advantage to the state, 
which is the military motive, and the dominating desire for 
gain in a mercantile enterprise, are very different incen- 
tives; and the result showed itself in a fact which has 
never been appreciated, and perhaps never noted, that the 

VOL. II. 16 

242 THE WAR OF 1812 

national ships of war were far more effective as prize takers 
than were the privateers. A contrary impression has cer- 
tainly obtained, and was shared by the present writer until 
he resorted to the commonplace test of adding up figures. 

Amid much brilliant achievement, privateering, like all 
other business pursuits, had also a large and preponderant 
record of unsuccess. The very small number of naval 
cruisers necessarily yielded a much smaller aggregate of 
prizes ; but when the respective totals are considered with 
reference to the numbers of vessels engaged in making 
them, the returns from the individual vessels of the United 
States navy far exceed those from the privateers. Among 
conspicuously successful cruisers, also, the United States 
ships "Argus," " Essex," "Peacock," and "Wasp " compare 
favorably in general results with the most celebrated priva- 
teers, even without allowing for the evident fact that a few 
instances of very extraordinary qualities and record are more 
likely to be found among five hundred vessels than among 
twenty-two ; this being the entire number of naval pen- 
dants actually engaged in open-sea cruising, from first to 
last. These twenty-two captured one hundred and sixty- 
five prizes, an average of 7.5 each, in which are included 
the enemy's ships of war taken. Of privateers of all classes 
there were five hundred and twenty-six ; or, excluding a 
few small nondescripts, four hundred and ninety-two. By 
these were captured thirteen hundred and forty-four ves- 
sels, an average of less than three ; to be exact, 2.7. The 
proportion, therefore, of prizes taken by ships of war to 
those by private armed vessels was nearly three to one. 

Comparison may be instituted in other ways. Of the 
twenty-two national cruisers, four only, or one in five, took 
no prize ; leaving to the remaining eighteen an average of 
nine. Out of the grand total of five hundred and twenty- 
six privateers only two hundi-ed and seven caught anything; 
three hundred and nineteen, three out of five, returned to 


port empty-handed, or were themselves taken. Dividing 
the thirteen hundred and forty-four prizes among the two 
hundred and seven more or less successful privateers, there 
results an average of 6.5 ; so that, regard being had only to 
successful cruisers, the achievement of the naval vessels 
was to that of the private armed nearly as three to two. 
These results may be accepted as disposing entirely of the 
extravagant claims made for privateering as a system, when 
compared with a regular naval service, especially when it 
is remembered with what difficulty the American frigates 
could get to sea at all, on account of their heavy draft and 
the close blockade ; whereas the smaller vessels, national 
or private, had not only many harbors open, but also com- 
paratively numerous opportunities to escape. The frigate 
"United States " never got out after her capture of the 
" Macedonian," in 1812 ; the " Congress " was shut up 
after her return in December, 1813; and the "Chesa- 
peake " had been captured in the previous June. All these 
nevertheless count in the twenty-two pendants reckoned 

The figures here cited are from a compilation by Lieu- 
tenant George F. Emmons,^ of the United States Navy, 
published in 1853 under the title, " The United States 
Navy from 1775 to 1853." Mr. Emmons made no analy- 
ses, confining himself to giving lists and particulars ; his 
work is purely statistical. Counting captures upon the 
lakes, and a few along the coast difficult of classification, 
his gi-and total of floating craft taken from the enemy 
reaches fifteen hundred and ninety-nine ; which agrees 
nearly with the sixteen hundred and thirty-four of Niles, 
whom he names among his sources of information. From 
an examination of the tables some other details of interest 
may be drawn. Of the five hundred and twenty-six priva- 
teers and letters-of -marque given by name, twenty-six 

^ Afterwards Rear-Admiral Emmons. 

244 THE WAR OF 1812 

were ships, sixty-seven brigs, three hundred and sixty- 
four schooners, thirty-five sloops, thirty-four miscellane- 
ous ; down to, and including, a few boats putting out from 
the beach. The number captured by the enemy was one 
hundred and forty-eight, or twenty-eight per cent. The 
navy suffered more severely. Of the twenty-two ves- 
sels reckoned above, twelve were taken, or destroyed to 
keep them out of an enemy's hands ; over fifty per cent. 
Of the twelve, six were small brigs, corresponding in size 
and nautical powers to the privateer. Three were frigates 
— the "President," "Essex," and "Chesapeake." One, 
the " Adams," was not at sea when destroyed by her own 
captain to escape capture. Only two sloops of war, the 
first " Wasp " and the " Frolic," ^ were taken ; and of these 
the former, as already known, was caught when partially 
dismasted, at the end of a successful engagement. 

Contemporary with the career of the " Argus," the ad- 
vantage of a sudden and unexpected inroad, like hers, 
upon a region deemed safe by the enemy, was receiving 
confirmation in the remote Pacific by the cruise of the 
frigate " Essex." This vessel, which had formed part of 
Commodore Bainbridge's squadron at the close of 1812, 
was last mentioned as keeping her Christmas off Cape 
Frio,2 on the coast of Brazil, awaiting there the coming 
of the consorts whom she never succeeded in joining. 
Captain Porter maintained this station, hearing frequently 
about Bainbridge by vessels from Bahia, until January 12, 
1813. Then a threatened shortness of provisions, and ru- 
mors of enemy's ships in the neighborhood, especially of 
the seventy-four "Montagu," combined to send him to 
St. Catherine's Island, another appointed rendezvous, and 
the last upon the coast of Brazil. In this remote and 

1 The new United States sloop of war " Frolic," named after the vessel taken 
by the " Wasp," was captured by the frigate " Orpheus," April 20, 1814. 
3 Ante, p. 3. 


From the painting hy Charles Wilson Peak, in Independence Hall, 

THE CRUISE OF THE "ESSEX," 1812-18U 245 

sequestered anchorage hostile cruisers would scarcely 
look for him, at least until more likely positions had been 
carefully examined. 

At St. Catherine's Porter heard of the action between 
the "Constitution" and "Java" off Bahia, a thousand 
miles distant, and received also a rumor, which seemed 
probable enough, that the third ship of the division, the 
" Hornet," had been captured by the " Montagu." He 
consequently left port Januaiy 26, for the southward, stiU 
with the expectation of ultimately joining the Commo- 
dore off St. Helena, the last indicated point of assembly ; 
but having been unable to renew his stores in St. Cather- 
ine's, and ascertaining that there was no hope of better 
success at Buenos Ayres, or the other Spanish settlements 
within the River La Plata, he after reflection decided to 
cut loose from the squadron and go alone to the Pacific. 
There he could reasonably hope to support himself by the 
whalers of the enemy; that class of vessel being always 
well provided for long absences. This alternative course 
he knew would be acceptable to the Government, as well 
as to his immediate commander.^ The next six weeks 
were spent in the tempestuous passage round Cape Horn, 
the ship's company living on half-allowance of provisions ; 
but on March 14, 1813, the " Essex " anchored in Val- 
paraiso, being the first United States ship of war to show 
the national flag in the Pacific. By a noteworthy coinci- 
dence she had already been the first to carry it beyond 
the Cape of Good Hope. 

Chile received the frigate hospitably, being at the time 
in revolt against Spain ; but the authority of the mother 
country was still maintained in Peru, where a Spanish 
viceroy resided, and it was learned that in the capacity 
of ally of Great Britain he intended to fit out privateers 

1 Porter to the Secretary of the Navy, July 3, 1814. Niles' Register, vol. vi. 
p. 338. 

246 THE WAR OF 1812 

against American whalers, of which there were many in 
these seas. As several of the British whalers carried 
letters-of-marque, empowering them to make prizes, the 
arrival of the " Essex" not only menaced the hostile in- 
terests, but promised to protect her own countrymen from 
a double danger. Her departure therefore was hastened; 
and having secured abundant provision, such as the port 
supplied, she sailed for the northward a week after anchor- 
ing. A privateer from Peru was met, which had seized 
two Americans. Porter threw overboard her guns and 
ammunition, and then released her with a note for the 
viceroy, which served both as a respectful explanation 
and a warning. One of the prizes taken by this marauder 
was recaptured March 27, when entering Callao, the port 
of Lima. 

The " Essex " then went to the Galapagos Islands, a 
group just south of the equator, five hundred miles from 
the South American mainland. These belong now to Ecua- 
dor, and at that day were a noted rendezvous for whalers 
In this neighborhood the frigate remained from April 17 to 
October 3, during which period she captured twelve Brit- 
ish whalers out of some twenty-odd reported in the Pacific ; 
with the necessary consequence of driving all others to 
cover for the time being. The prizes were valuable, some 
more, some less ; not only from the character of their 
cargoes, but because they themselves were larger than 
the average merchant ship, and exceptionally well found. 
Three were sent to Valparaiso in convoy of a fourth, 
which had been converted into a consort of the " Essex," 
under the name of the "Essex Junior," mounting 
twenty very light guns, September 30 she returned, 
bringing word that a British squadron, consisting of the 
36-gun frigate " Phoebe," Captain James Hillyar, and the 
sloops of war "Cherub" and "Raccoon," had sailed for 
the Pacific. The rumor was correct, though long ante- 

^ ESSEX," "PH(EBE," AND '' CHERUB" 247 

dating the arrival of the vessels. In consequence of it. 
Porter, considering that his work at the Galapagos was 
now complete, and that the " Essex " would need overhaul- 
ing before a possible encounter with a division, the largest 
unit of which was superior to her in class and force, de- 
cided to move to a position then even more remote from 
disturbance than St. Catherine's had been. On October 
25 the "Essex" and "Essex Junior" anchored at the 
island of Nukahiva, of the Marquesas group, having with 
them three of the prizes. Of the others, besides those 
now at Valparaiso, two had been given up to prisoners 
to convey them to England, and three had been sent to 
the United States. That all the last were captured on the 
way detracts nothing from Porters merit, but testifies 
vividly to the British command of the sea. 

At the Marquesas, by aid of the resources of the 
prizes, the frigate was thoroughly overhauled, refitted, 
and provisioned for six months. Porter had not only 
maintained his ship, but in part paid his officers and 
crew from the proceeds of his captures. On December 
12 he sailed for Chile, satisfied with the material out- 
come of his venturous cruise, but wishing to add to it 
soraetliing of further distinction by an encounter with 
Hdlyar, if obtainable on terms approaching equality. 
With this object the ship's company were diligently ex- 
ercised at the guns and small arms during the passage, 
which lasted nearly eight weeks ; the Chilean coast being 
sighted on January 12, far to the southward, and the 
" Essex " running slowly along it until February 3, when 
she reached Valparaiso. On the 8th the " Phoebe " and 
" Cherub " came in and anchored ; the " Raccoon " having 
gone on to the Xorth Pacific. 

The antagonists now lay near one another, under the 
restraint of a neutral port, for several days, during which 
some social intercourse took place between the officers; 

248 THE WAR OF 1812 

the two captains renewing an acquaintance made years 
before in the Mediterranean. After a period of refit, 
and of repose for the crews, the British left the bay, 
and cruised off the port. The " Essex " and " Essex 
Junior" remained at anchor, imprisoned by a force too 
superior to be encountered without some modifying cir- 
cumstances of advantage. Porter found opportunities for 
contrasting the speed of the two frigates, and convinced 
himself that the " Essex " was on that score superior ; but 
the respective armaments introduced very important tacti- 
cal considerations, which might, and in the result did, prove 
decisive. The " Essex " originally had been a 12-pounder 
frigate, classed as of thirty-two guns ; but her battery now 
was forty 32-pounder carronades and six long twelves. 
Captain Porter in his report of the battle stated the arma* 
ment of the " Phoebe " to be thirty long 18-pounders and 
sixteen 32-pounder carronades. The British naval his- 
torian James gives her twenty-six long eighteens, fourteen 
32-pounder carronades, and four long nines ; while to the 
" Cherub " he attributes a carronade battery of eighteen 
thirty-twos and six eighteens, with two long sixes. Which- 
ever enumeration be accepted, the broadside of the " Es- 
sex " within carronade range considerably outweighed that 
of the " Phoebe " alone, but was much less than that of 
the two British ships combined ; the light built and light- 
armed " Essex Junior " not being of account to either side. 
There remained always the serious chance that, even if the 
" Phoebe " accepted single combat, some accident of wind 
might prevent the " Essex " reaching her before being dis- 
abled by her long guns, Hillyar, moreover, was an old 
disciple of Nelson, fully imbued with the teaching that 
achievement of success, not personal glory, must dictate 
action ; and, having a well established reputation for cour- 
age and conduct, he did not intend to leave anything to 
the chances of fortune incident to engagement between 


equals. He would accept no provocation to fight apart 
from the "Cherub." 

Forced to accept this condition, Porter now turned. his 
attention to escape. Valparaiso Bay is an open roadstead, 
facing north. The high ground above the anchorage pro- 
vides shelter from the south-southwest wind, which pre- 
vails along this coast throughout the year with very rare 
intermissions. At times, as is common under high land, it 
blows furiously in gusts. The British vessels underway 
kept their station close to the extreme western point of the 
bay, to prevent the " Essex " from passing to southward 
of them, and so gaining the advantage of the wind, which 
might entail a prolonged chase and enable her, if not to 
distance pursuit, at least to draw the " Phcebe " out of 
support of the "Cherub." Porter's aim of course was 
to seize an opportunity when by neglect, or unavoidably, 
they had left a practicable opening between them and the 
point. In the end, his hand was forced by an accident. 

On March 28 the south wind blew with unusual vio- 
lence, and the " Essex " parted one of her cables. The 
other anchor failed to hold when the strain came upon it, 
and the ship began to drift to sea. The cable was cut and 
sail made at once ; for though the enemy were too nearly 
in their station to have warranted the attempt to leave 
under ordinary conditions, Porter, in the emergency thus 
suddenly thrust upon him, thought he saw a prospect of 
passing to windward. The " Essex " therefore was hauled 
close to the wind under single-reefed topsails, heading to 
the westward ; but just as she came under the point of the 
bay a heavy squall carried away the maintopmast. The 
loss of this spar hopelessly crippled her, and made it impossi- 
ble even to regain the anchorage left. She therefore put 
about, and ran eastward until within pistol-shot of the 
coast, about three miles north of the city. Here she 
anchored, well within neutral waters; HiUyar*s report 

250 THE WAR OF 1812 

stating that she was " so near shore as to preclude the 
possibility of passing ahead of her without risk to his 
Majesty's ships." Three miles, then the range of a cannon- 
shot, estimated liberally, was commonly accepted as the 
width of water adjacent to neutral territory, which was 
under the neutral protection. The British captain decided 
nevertheless to attack. 

The wind remaining southerly, the " Essex " rode head 
to it ; the two hostile vessels approaching with the inten- 
tion of running north of her, close under her stern. The 
wind, however, forced them off as they drew near; and 
their first attack, beginning about 4 p.m. and lasting ten 
minutes, produced no visible effect, according to Hillyar's 
report. Porter states, on the contrary, that considerable 
injury was done to the " Essex " ; and in particular the 
spring which he was trying to get on the cable was thrice 
shot away, thus preventing the bringing of her broadside 
to bear as required. The " Phoebe " and her consort then 
wore, which increased their distance, and stood out again 
to sea. While doing this they threw a few "random 
shots ; " fired, that is, at an elevation so great as to be 
incompatible with certainty of aim. During this can- 
nonade the "Essex," with three 12-pounders run out of 
her stem ports, had deprived the " Phcebe " of " the use 
of her mainsail, jib and mainstay." On standing in again 
Hillyar prepared to anchor, but ordered the " Cherub " 
to keep underway, choosing a position whence she could 
most annoy their opponent. 

At 5.35 P.M., by Hillyar's report, — Porter is silent as 
to the hour, — the attack was renewed; the British ships 
both placing themselves on the starboard — seaward — 
quarter of the " Essex." Before the " Phcebe " reached 
the position in which she intended to anchor, the " Essex " 
was seen to be underway. Hillyar could only suppose that 
her cable had been severed by a shot ; but Porter states 

''ESSEX," <'PH(EBE," AND "CHERUB" 251 

that under the galling fire to which she was subjected, 
without power to reply, he cut the cable, hoping, as the 
enemy were to leeward, he might bring the ship into close 
action, and perhaps even board the "Phoebe." The deci- 
sion was right, but under the conditions a counsel of des- 
peration ; for sheets, tacks, and halliards being shot away, 
movement depended upon sails hanging loose, — spread, 
but not set. Nevertheless, he was able for a short time to 
near the enemy, and both accounts agree that hereupon 
ensued the heat of the combat; "a serious conflict," to 
use Hillyar's words, to which corresponds Porter's state- 
ment that " the firing on both sides was now tremendous." 
The " Phoebe," however, was handled, very properly, to util- 
ize to the fuU the tactical advantages she possessed in the 
greater range of her guns, and in power of manoeuvring. 
In the circumstances under which she was acting, the sail 
power left her was amply sufficient; having simply to 
keep drawing to leeward, maintaining from her opponent 
a distance at which his guns were useless and her own 

Under these conditions, seeing success to be out of the 
question, and suffering great loss of men, Poiter turned 
to the last resort of the vanquished, to destroy the vessel 
and to save the crew from captivity. The " Essex " 
was pointed for the shore; but when within a couple of 
hundred yards the wind, which had so far favored her 
approach, shifted ahead. Still clinging to every chance, 
a kedge with a hawser was let go, to hold her where she 
was ; perhaps the enemy might drift unwittingly out of 
range. But the hawser parted, and with it the frigate's 
last hold upon the country which she had honored by an 
heroic defence. Porter then authorized any who might 
wish to swim ashore to do so ; the flag being kept flpng to 
warrant a proceeding which after formal surrender would 
be a breach of faith. At 6.20 the " Essex " at last lowered 

252 THE WAR OF 1812 

her colors.^ Out of a ship's company of two hundred and 
fifty-five, with which she sailed in the morning, fifty-eight 
were killed, or died of their wounds, and sixty-five were 
wounded. The missing were reported at thirty-one. By 
agreement between Hillyar and Porter, the " Essex Junior " 
was disarmed, and neutralized, to convey to the United 
States, as paroled prisoners of war, the survivors who 
remained on board at the moment of surrender. These 
numbered one hundred and thirty-two. It is an interesting 
particular, linking those early days of the United States 
navy to a long subsequent period of renown, and worthy 
therefore to be recalled, that among the combatants of the 
" Essex " was Midshipman David G. Farragut, then thir- 
teen years old. His name figures among the wounded, as 
well as in the list of passengers on board the "Essex 

The disaster to the " Essex " is connected by a singular 
and tragical link with the fate of an American cruiser of 
like adventurous enterprise in seas far distant from the 
Pacific. After the defeat at Valparaiso, Lieutenant Stephen 
Decatur McKnight and Midshipman James Lyman of the 
United States frigate were exchanged as prisoners of war 
against a certain number of officers and seamen belonging 
to one of the " Essex's " prizes ; which, having continued 
under protection of the neutral port, had undergone no 
change of belligerent relation by the capture of her cap- 
tor. When the " Essex Junior " sailed, these two officers 
remained behind, by amicable arrangement, to go in the 
"Phcebe" to Rio Janeiro, there to give certain evidence 
needed in connection with the prize claims of the British 
frigate ; which done, it was understood they would be at 
liberty to return to their own country by such conveyance 
as suited them. After arrival in Rio, the first convenient 

1 Porter's Report of this action is to be found in Niles' Register, vol. vL 
pp. 338-341. Hillyar's in Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxii. pp. 168-170. 


opportunity offering was by a Swedish brig sailing for Fal- 
mouth, England. In her they took passage, leaving Rio 
August 28, 1814. On October 9 the brig fell in A\4th the 
United States sloop of war " Wasp," in mid-ocean, about 
three hundred miles west of the Cape Verde Islands, home- 
ward bound. The two passengers transferred themselves 
to her. Since this occurrence nothing further has ever 
been heard of the American ship ; nor would the incident 
itseH have escaped obhvion but for the anxiety of friends, 
which after the lapse of time prompted systematic inquiry 
to ascertain what had become of the missing officers. 

The captain of the " Wasp " was Master-Commandant, 
or, as he would now be styled, Commander Johnstone 
Blakely ; the same who had commanded the " Enterprise " 
up to a month before her engagement with the " Boxer," 
when was demonstrated the efficiency to which he had 
brought her ship's company. He sailed from Portsmouth, 
New Hampshire, May 1, 1814. Of his instructions,^ the 
most decisive was to remain for thirty days in a position 
on the approaches to the English Channel, about one hun- 
dred and fifty miles south of Ireland, in which neighbor- 
hood occurred the most striking incidents of the cruise. 
On the outward passage was taken only one prize, June 2. 
She was from Cork to Halifax, twelve days out ; therefore 
probably from six to eight hundred miles west of Ireland. 
The second, from Limerick for Bordeaux, June 13, would 
show the "Wasp" on her station; on which, Blakely re- 
ported, it was impossible to keep her, even approximately, 
being continually drawn away in pursuit, and often much 
further up the English Channel than desired, on account 
of the numerous sails passing.^ When overhauled, most 
of these were found to be neutrals. Nevertheless, seven 

1 The Secretary of the Navy to Blakely, March 3, 1814. Navy Depart- 
ment MSS. 

2 Blakely to the Navy Department, Niles' Register, vol. vii. p. 115. 

254 THE WAR OF 1812 

British merchant vessels were taken; all of which were 
destroyed, except one given up to carry prisoners to 

While thus engaged, the " Wasp" on June 28 sighted a 
sail, which proved to be the British brig of war "Rein- 
deer," Captain Manners, that had left Plymouth six days 
before. The place of this meeting was latitude 48|-° North, 
longitude 11° East ; therefore nearly in the cruising ground 
assigned to Blakely by his instructions. The antagonists 
were unequally matched; the American carrying twenty 
32-pounder carronades and two long guns, the British six- 
teen 24-pounders and two long ; a difference against her of 
over fifty per cent. The "Reindeer" was to windward, 
and some manoeuvring took place in the respective efforts 
to keep or to gain this advantage. In the end the " Rein- 
deer " retained it, and the action began with both on 
the starboard tack, closehauled, the British sloop on the 
weather quarter of the "Wasp," — behind, but on the 
weather side, which in this case was to the right (1). 
Approaching slowly, the " Reindeer " with great delib- 
eration fired five times, at two-minute intervals, a light 
gun mounted on her forecastle, loaded with round and 
grape shot Finding her to maintain this position, upon 
Avhich his guns would not train, Blakely put the helm 
down, and the " Wasp " turned swiftly to the right (2), 
bringing her starboard battery to bear. This was at 3.26 
P.M. The action immediately became very hot, at very 
close range (3), and the " Reindeer " was speedily disabled. 
The vessels then came together (4), and Captain Man- 
ners, who by this time had received two severe wounds, 
with great gallantry endeavored to board with his crew, 
reduced by the severe punishment already inflicted to half 
its originally inferior numbers. As he climbed into the 
rigging, two balls from the " Wasp's " tops passed through 
his head, and he fell back dead on his own deck. No fur- 

■:1....^ % 

3 2 


CZ> Wasp 


"IF45P" AND ''AVON" 255 

ther resistance was offered, and the " Wasp " took posses- 
sion. She had lost five killed and twenty-one wounded, of 
whom six afterwards died. The British casualties were 
twenty-three killed and forty-two wounded. The brig 
herself, being fairly torn to pieces, was burned the next 

The results of this engagement testify to the efficiency 
and resolution of both combatants ; but a special meed of 
praise is assuredly due to Captain Manners, whose tenacity 
was as marked as his daring, and who, by the injury done 
to his stronger antagonist, demonstrated both the thorough- 
ness of his previous general preparation and the skill of 
his management in the particular instance. Under his 
command the "Reindeer" had become a notable vessel 
in the fleet to which she belonged; but as equality in 
force is at a disadvantage where there is serious inferi- 
ority in training and discipline, so the best of drilling 
must yield before decisive superiority of armament, when 
there has been equal care on both sides to insure effi- 
ciency in the use of the battery. To Blakely's diligence 
in this respect his whole career bears witness. 

After the action Blakely wished to remain cruising, 
which neither the condition of his ship nor her losses in 
men forbade ; but the number of prisoners and wounded 
compelled him to make a harbor. He accordingly went 
into L'Orient, France, on July 8. Despite the change of 
government, and the peace with Great Britain which at- 
tended the restoration of the Bourbons, the " Wasp " was 
here hospitably received and remained for seven weeks 
refitting, sailing again August 27. By September 1 she 
had taken and destroyed three more enemy's vessels ; one 
of which was cut out from a convoy, and burnt under the 
eyes of the convoying 74-gun ship. At 6.30 p.m. of Sep- 

1 The particulars of this action are taken from the minates of the " Wasp," 
enclosed in Blakely's Report, Niles' Rejjister, voL vii. p. 115. 

256 THE WAR OF 1812 

tember 1 four sails were sighted, from which Blakely 
selected to pursue the one most to windward ; for, should 
this prove a ship of war, the others, if consorts, would be 
to leeward of the fight, less able to assist. The chase lasted 
till 9.26, when the " Wasp " was near enough to see that 
the stranger was a brig of war^ and to open with a light 
carronade on the forecastle, as the "Reindeer" had done 
upon her in the same situation. Confident in his vessel, 
however, Blakely abandoned this advantage of position, 
ran under his antagonist's lee to prevent her standing 
down to join the vessels to leeward, and at 9.29 began the 
engagement, being then on her lee bow. At ten the " Wasp " 
ceased firing and hailed, believing the enemy to be silenced ; 
but receiving no reply, and the British guns opening 
again, the combat was renewed. At 10.12, seeing the oppo- 
nent to be suffering greatly, Blakely hailed again and was 
answered that the brig had surrendered. The "Wasp's" 
battery was secured, and a boat was in the act of being 
lowered to take possession, when a second brig was discov- 
ered close astern. Preparation was made to receive her and 
her coming up awaited ; but at 10.36 the two others were 
also visible, astern and approaching. The " Wasp " then 
made sail, hoping to decoy the second vessel from her sup- 
ports ; but the sinking condition of the one first engaged 
detained the new-comer, who, having come within pistol- 
shot, fired a broadside which took effect only aloft, and 
then gave all her attention to saving the crew of her com- 
rade. As the " Wasp " drew away she heard the repeated 
signal guns of distress discharged by her late adversary, 
the name of which never became known to the captain and 
crew of the victorious ship.i 

The vessel thus engaged was the British brig " Avon," 
of sixteen 32-pounder carronades, and two long 9-pound- 
ers ; her force being to that of the " Wasp " as four to 
1 Blakely's Report, Niles' Register, vol. vii. p. 192. 

"WASP" AND "AVON" 257 

five. Her loss in men was ten killed and thirty-two 
wounded ; that of the " Wasp " two killed and one 
wounded. The " Avon " being much superior to the " Rein- 
deer," this comparatively shght injury inflicted by her 
testifies to inferior efficiency. The broadside of her res- 
cuer, the " Castilian," of the same weight as her own, wholly 
missed the " Wasp's " hull, though delivered from so near ; 
a circumstance which drew from the British historian, 
James, the caustic remark that she probably would have 
done no better than the "Avon," had the action con- 
tinued. The " Wasp " was much damaged in sails and 
rigging ; the " Avon " sank two hours and a half after the 
" Wasp " left her and one hour after being rejoined by the 
" Castihan." 

The course of the " Wasp " after this event is traced by 
her captures. The meeting with the " Avon " was within 
a hundred miles of that with the "Reindeer." On Sep- 
tember 12 and 14, having run south three hundred and 
sixty miles, she took two vessels; being then about two 
hundred and fifty miles west from Lisbon. On the 21st, 
having made four degrees more southing, she seized 
the British brig " Atalanta," a hundred miles east of Ma- 
deira. This prize being of exceptional value, Blakely 
decided to send her in, and she arrived safely at Savannah 
on November 4, in charge of Midshipman David Geisinger, 
who lived to become a captain in the navy.^ She brought 
with her Blakely's official despatches, including the report 
of the affair with the " Avon." This was the last tidings 
received from the " Wasp " until the inquiries of friends 
ehcited the fact that the two officers of the " Essex " had 
joined her three weeks after the capture of the " Atalanta," 
nine hundred miles farther south. Besides these, there 
were among the lost two lieutenants who had been in the 
" Constitution " when she took the " Guerriere " and the 

1 Niles' Register, voL vii. p. 173. 
VOL. II. — 17 

258 THE WAR OF 1812 

" Java," and one who had been in the " Enterprise " in her 
action with the " Boxer." 

Coincident in time with the cruise of the " Wasp " was 
that of her sister ship, the " Peacock "; like her also newly- 
built, and named after the British brig sunk by Captain 
Lawrence in the "Hornet." The finest achievement of 
the " Wasp," however, was near the end of her career, 
while it fell to the " Peacock " to begin with a success- 
ful action. Having left New York early in March, she 
went first to St. Mary's, Georgia, carrying a quantity 
of warlike stores. In making this passage she was re- 
peatedly chased by enemies. Having landed her cargo, 
she sailed immediately and ran south as far as one 
of the Bahama Islands, called the Great Isaac, near to 
which vessels from Jamaica and Cuba bound to Europe 
must pass, because of the narrowness of the channel sepa- 
rating the islands from the Florida coast. In this neigh- 
borhood she remained from April 18 to 24, seeing only one 
neutral and two privateers, which were pursued unsuccess- 
fully. This absence of unguarded merchant ships, coupled 
with the frequency of hostile cruisers met before, illus- 
trates exactly the conditions to which attention has been 
repeatedly drawn, as characterizing the British plan of 
action in the Western Atlantic. Learning that the ex- 
pected Jamaica convoy would be under charge of a seventy- 
four, two frigates, and two sloops, and that the merchant 
ships in Havana, fearing to sail alone, would await its 
passing to join. Captain Warrington next Stood slowly to 
the northward, and on April 29, off Cape Canaveral, 
sighted four sail, which proved to be the British brig 
" Epervier " of eighteen 32-pounder carronades,^ also north- 

1 James says that two of these guns were 1 8-pounders ; but the first lieu- 
tenant of the " Peacock," who brought the prize into port, and from there 
wrote independently of Warrington, agrees with him in saying eighteen 
thirty-twos. Niles' Register, vol. vi. pp. 180, 196. 


ward bound, with three merchant vessels under her 
convoy; one of these being Russian, and one Spanish, 
belono-incr therefore to nations still at war with France, 
though neutral towards the United States. The third, a 
merchant brig, was the first British commercial vessel seen 
since leaving Savannah. 

As usual and proper, the "Epervier," seeing that the 
" Peacock " would overtake her and her convoy, directed 
the latter to separate while she stood down to engage the 
hostile cruiser. The two vessels soon came to blows. 
The accounts of the action on both sides are extremely 
meagre, and preclude any certain statement as to manoeu- 
vres ; which indeed cannot have been material to the issue 
reached. The "Epervier," for reasons that will appear 
later, fought first one broadside and then the other; but 
substantially the contest appears to have been maintained 
side to side. From the first discharge of the " Epervier " 
two round shot struck the " Peacock's " foreyard nearly in 
the same place, which so weakened the spar as to deprive 
the ship of the use of her foresail and foretopsail ; that is, 
practically, of all sail on the foremast. Having thence- 
forth only the jibs for headsail, she had to be kept a little 
off the wind. The action lasted forty-five minutes, when 
the " Epervier " struck. Her loss in men was eight 
kiUed, and fifteen wounded; the "Peacock" had two 

In extenuation of this disproportion in result, James 
states that in the first broadside three of the " Epervier's " 
carronades were unshipped ; and that, when those on the 
other side were brought into action by tacking, similar 
mishaps occurred. Further, the moment the guns got 
warm they drew out the breeching bolts. Allowing full 
force to these facts, they certainly have some bearing on 
the general outcome ; but viewed with regard to the par- 
ticular question of efficiency, which is the issue of credit 

260 THE WAR OF 1812 

in every fight,^ there remains the first broadside, and such 
other discharges as the carronades could endure before 
getting warm. The light metal of those guns indisputably 
caused them to heat rapidly, and to kick nastily; but it 
can scarcely be considered probable that the " Epervier " 
was not able to get in half a dozen broadsides. The result, 
two wounded, establishes inefficiency, and a practical cer- 
tainty of defeat had all her ironwork held ; for the " Pea- 
cock," though only three months commissioned, was a 
good ship under a thoroughly capable and attentive cap- 
tain. A comical remark of James in connection with this 
engagement illustrates the weakness of prepossession, in 
all matters relating to Americans, which in him was joined 
to a painstaking accuracy in ascertaining and stating exter- 
nal facts. " Two well-directed shot," he says, disabled the 
" Peacock's " foreyard. It was certainly a capital piece of 
luck for the "Epervier" that her opponent at the outset 
lost the use of one of her most important spars ; but the 
implication that the shot were directed for the point hit is 
not only preposterous but, in a combat between vessels 
nearly equal, depreciatory. The shot of a first broadside 
had no business to be so high in the air. 

James alleges also poor quality and a mutinous spirit in 
the crew, and that at the end, when their captain called 
upon them to board, they refused, saying, "She is too 
heavy for us." To this the adequate reply is that the 
brig had been in commission since the end of 1812, — 
sixteen months; time sufficient to bring even an indif- 
ferent crew to a very reasonable degree of efficiency, yet 
not enousfh to cause serious deterioration of material. 

1 In a " Synopsis of Naval Actions," between British and American vessels, 
contributed to the Naval Chronicle by a " British naval officer on the Ameri- 
can station," occurs the remark relative to the defeat of the "Avon": 
" Miserable gunnery on our side, attributable . . . above all to not drilling 
the men at firing at the guns ; a practice the Americans never neglect." 
Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxiv. p. 469. 


That after the punishment received the men refused to 
board, if discreditable to them under the conditions, is dis- 
creditable also to the captain ; not to his courage, but to 
his hold upon the men whom he had commanded so long. 
The establishment of the " Epervier's " inefficiency cer- 
tainly detracts from the distinction of the " Peacock's " 
victory ; but it was scarcely her fault that her adversary 
was not worthier, and it does not detract from her credit 
for management and gunnery, considering that the combat 
began with the loss of her own foresails, and ended with 
forty-five shot in the hull, and five feet of water in the 
hold, of her antagonist. 

By dark of the day of action the prize was in condition 
to make sail, and the " Peacock's " yard had been fished and 
again sent aloft. The two vessels then steered north for 
Savannah. The next evening two British frigates appeared. 
Captain Warrington directed the " Epervier " to keep on 
close along shore, while he stood southward to draw away 
the enemy. This proved effective ; the " Epervier " arriv- 
ing safely IMay 2 at the anchorage at the mouth of the 
Savannah River, where the " Peacock " rejoined her on the 
4th. The " Adams," Captain Morris, was also there ; hav- 
ing arrived from the coast of Africa on the day of the 
fight, and sailing again a week after it, May 5, for another 

On June 4 the " Peacock " also started upon a protracted 
cruise, from which she returned to New York October 30, 
after an absence of one hundred and forty-seven days.^ 
She followed the Gulf Stream, outside the line of British 
blockaders, to the Banks of Newfoundland, thence to the 
Azores, and so on to Ireland ; off the south of which, 
between Waterford and Cape Clear, she remained for 
four days. After this she passed round the west coast, 

1 For Captain Warrington's report of this cruise, see Niles' Register, voL 
vii. p. 155. 

262 THE WAR OF 1812 

and to the northward as far as Shetland and the Faroe 
Islands. She then retraced her course, crossed the Bay 
of Biscay, and ran along the Portuguese coast; pursu- 
ing in general outline the same path as that in which 
the "Wasp" very soon afterwards followed. Fourteen 
prizes were taken; of which twelve were destroyed, and 
two utilized as cartels to carry prisoners to England. Of 
the whole number, one only was seized from September 2, 
when the ship was off the Canaries, to October 12, off 
Barbuda in the West Indies ; and none from there to the 
United States. "Not a single vessel was seen from the 
Cape Verde to Surinam," reported Warrington ; while in 
seven daj's spent between the Rock of Lisbon and Cape 
Ortegal, at the northwest extremity of the Spanish penin- 
sula, of twelve sail seen, nine of which were spoken, only 
two were British. 

In these conditions were seen, exemplified and empha- 
sized, the alarm felt and precautions taken, by both the 
mercantile classes and the Admiralty, in consequence of 
the invasion of European waters by American armed ves- 
sels, of a class and an energy unusually fitted to harass 
commerce. The lists of American prizes teem with evi- 
dence of extraordinary activity, by cruisers singularly 
adapted for their work, and audacious in proportion to 
their confidence of immunity, based upon knowledge of 
their particular nautical qualities. The impression pro- 
duced by their operations is reflected in the representa- 
tions of the mercantile community, in the rise of insurance, 
and in the stricter measures instituted by the Admiralty. 
The Naval Chronicle, a service journal which since 1798 
had been recording the successes and supremacy of the 
British Navy, confessed now that " the depredations com- 
mitted on our commerce by American ships of war and 
privateers have attained an extent beyond all former prece- 
dent. . . . We refer our readers to the letters in our cor- 


respondence. The insurance between Bristol and Water- 
ford or Cork is now three times higher than it was when 
we were at war with all Europe. The Admiralty have 
been overwhelmed with letters of complaint or remon- 
strance." ^ In the exertions of the cruisers the pace 
seems to grow more and more furious, as the year 1814 
draws to its close amid a scene of exasperated coast war- 
fare, desolation, and humiliation, in America ; as though 
they were determined, amid aU their pursuit of gain, to 
make the enemy also feel the excess of mortification which 
he was inflicting upon their own country. The discourage- 
ment testified by British shippers and underwriters was 
doubtless enhanced and embittered by disappointment, in 
findingr the movement of trade thus embarrassed and inter- 
cepted at the very moment when the restoration of peace 
in Europe had given high hopes of healing the wounds, 
and repairing the breaches, made by over twenty years of 
maritime warfare, almost unbroken. 

In London, on August 17, 1814, directors of two insur- 
ance companies presented to the Admiralty remonstrances 
on the want of protection in the Channel; to which 
the usual official reply was made that an adequate force 
was stationed both in St. George's Channel and in the 
North Sea. The London paper from which this inteUi- 
gence was taken stated that premiums on vessels trading 
between England and Ireland had risen from an ordinary 
rate of less than one pound sterling to five guineas per 
cent. The Admiralty, taxed with neglect, attributed blame 
to the merchant captains, and announced additional severity 
to those who should part convoy. Proceedings were insti- 
tuted against two masters guilty of this offence.^ Sep- 
tember 9, the merchants and shipowners of Liverpool 
remonstrated direct to the Prince Regent, going over the 

1 Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxii. p. 244. See also, Ibid , pp. 211, 218. 

2 London paper, quoted in Niles' Register, vol. vii. p. 175. 

264 THE WAR OF 1812 

heads of the Admiralty, whom they censured. Again the 
Admiralty alleged sufficient precautions, specifying three 
frigates and fourteen sloops actually at sea for the imme- 
diate protection of St. George's Channel and the western 
Irish coast against depredations, which they nevertheless 
did not succeed in suppressing.^ 

At the same time the same classes in Glasgow were tak- 
ing action, and passing resolutions, the biting phrases of 
which were probably prompted as much by a desire to 
sting the Admiralty as by a personal sense of national 
abasement. " At a time when we are at peace with all 
the rest of the world, when the maintenance of our marine 
costs so large a sum to the country, when the mercantile 
and shipping interests pay a tax for protection under the 
form of convoy duty, and when, in the plenitude of our 
power, we have declared the whole American coast under 
blockade, it is equally distressing and mortifying that our 
ships cannot with safety traverse our own channels, that 
insurance cannot be effected but at an excessive premium, 
and that a horde of American cruisers should be allowed, 
unheeded, unmolested, unresisted, to take, burn, or sink 
our own vessels in our own inlets, and almost in sight of 
our own harbours." ^ In the same month the merchants of 
Bristol, the position of which was comparatively favorable 
to intercourse with Ireland, also presented a memorial, 
stating that the rate of insurance had risen to more than 
twofold the amount at which it was usually effected dur- 
ing the continental war, when the British Navy could not, 
as it now might, direct its operations solely against Ameri- 
can cruisers. Shipments consequently had been in a con- 
siderable degree suspended. The Admiralty replied tliat 
the only certain protection was by convoy. This they 
were ready to supply but could not compel, for the Convoy 

1 Niles' Register, vol. vii. p. 190. Naval Chronicle, vol, xxxii. p. 244. 
« Niles' Register, vol. vii. p. 190, 


Act did not apply to trade between ports of the United 

This was the offensive return made by America's right 
arm of national safety; the retort to the harrj-ing of the 
Chesapeake, and of Long Island Sound, and to the capture 
and destruction of Washington. But, despite the demon- 
strated superiority of a national navy, on the whole, for 
the infliction of such retaliation, even in the mere matter 
of commerce destroying, — not to speak of confidence in 
national prowess, sustained chiefly by the fighting suc- 
cesses at sea, — this weighty blow to the pride and com- 
merce of Great Britain was not dealt by the national 
Government ; for the national Government had gone to war 
culpably unprepared. It was the work of the people almost 
wholly, guided and governed by their own shrewdness and 
capacity ; seeking, indeed, less a military than a pecuniary 
result, an indemnity at the expense of the enemy for the 
loss to which they had been subjected by protracted ineffi- 
ciency in administration and in statesmanship on the part 
of their rulers. The Government sat wringing its hands, 
amid the ruins of its capital and the crash of its resources ; 
reaping the reward of those wasted years during which, 
amid abounding warning, it had neglected preparation 
to meet the wrath to come. Monroe, the Secretary of 
State, writing from Washington to a private friend, July 
3, 1814, said, "Even in this state, the Government shakes 
to the foundation. Let a strong force land anywhere, and 
what will be the effect?" A few months later, December 
21, he tells Jefferson, " Our finances are in a deplorable 
state. The means of the countiy have scarcely yet been 
touched, yet we have neither money in the Treasury nor 
credit." ^ This statement was abundantly confirmed by a 
contemporary official report of the Secretary of the 
Treasury. At the end of the year, Bainbridge, command- 

1 Writings of James Monroe. 

266 THE WAR OF 1812 

ing the Boston navy yard, wrote the Department, " The 
officers and men of this station are really suffering for 
want of pay due them, and articles now purchased for the 
use of the navy are, in consequence of payment in treasury 
notes, enhanced about thirty per cent. Yesterday we had 
to discharge one hundred seamen, and could not pay them 
a cent of their wages. The officers and men have neither 
money, clothes, nor credit, and are embarrassed with 
debts." ^ No wonder the privateers got the seamen. 

The decision to abandon the leading contention of the 
war had been reached long before.^ In an official letter, 
dated June 27, 1814, to the commissioners appointed to 
treat for peace, after enumerating the threatening conditions 
confronting the country, now that the European conflict 
was at an end, Monroe wrote, " On mature consideration 
it has been decided that, under all the circumstances above 
alluded to, incident to a prosecution of the war, you may 
omit any stipulation on the subject of impressment, if found 
indispensably necessary to terminate it. You will of course 
not recur to this expedient until all your efforts to adjust 
the controversy in a more satisfactory manner have failed." ^ 
The phraseology of this instruction disposes completely of 
the specious plea, advanced by partisans of the Administra- 

1 Captains' Letters, Dec. 11, 1814. Bainbridge's italics. 

2 It will be remembered that after the repeal of the Orders in Council, 
June 23, 1812, impressment remained the only sine qua non of the United 

8 American State Papers. Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 704. Author's italics. 
This was the result of a Cabinet meeting held the same day. "June 27, 1814. 
In consequence of letters from Bayard and Gallatin of May 6-7, and other 
accounts from Europe of the ascendancy and views of Great Britain, and the 
dispositions of the great Continental Powers, the question was put to the Cabi- 
net : ' Shall a treaty of peace, silent on the subject of impressment, be author- 
ized ? ' Agreed to by Monroe, Campbell, Armstrong, and Jones. Rush absent. 
Our minister to be instructed, besides trying other conditions, to make a previ- 
ous trial to insert or annex some declaration, or, against any inference, 
from the silence of the Treaty on the subject of impressment, that the British 
claim was admitted or that of the United States abandoned." (Works of 
Madison, vol. iii. p. 408.) 


tion, that the subject was dropped because impressment 
was no longer a live issue; the maritime war of Europe 
being over. It was dropped because it had to be dropped ; 
because the favorable opportunities presented in 1812 and 
1813 had been lost by the incompetency of the national 
Government, distributed over a period of nearly a dozen 
years of idle verbal argumentation ; because in 1814 there 
stood between it and disastrous reverse, and loss of terri- 
tory in the north, only the resolution and professional skill 
of a yet unrecognized seaman on the neglected waters of 
Lake Champlain. 

Before concluding finally the subject of the offensive 
maritime operations against the enemy's commerce, it may 
be mentioned that in the last six months of the war, that 
is within one fifth of its duration, were made one tliird 
of the total captures. Duly to weigh this result, regard 
must be had to the fact that, when the navy is adequate, 
the most numerous seizures of commercial shipping are 
usually effected at the beginning, because the scattered 
merchantmen are taken unawares. The success of the last 
few months of this war indicates the stimulus given to 
privateering, partly by the conditions of the country, im- 
periously demanding some relief from the necessity, and 
stagnancy of occupation, caused by the blockade; partly 
by the growing appreciation of the fact that a richer har- 
vest was to be reaped by seeking the most suitable fields 
vsdth the most suitable vessels. In an energetic and busi- 
nesslike people it will be expected that the experience of 
the two preceding twelvemonths would have produced de- 
cided opinions and practical results in the construction of 
privateers, as well as in the direction given them. It 
is one thing to take what is at hand and make the most of 
it in an emergency ; it is another to design thoughtfully a 
new instrument, best qualified for the end in view. The 
cruiser needed speed and handiness, — that is the first 

268 THE WAR OF 1812 

and obvious requirement; but, to escape the numerous 
enemies gradually let loose to shorten her career, it became 
increasingly requisite that she should have also weight of 
armament, to fight, and weight of hull — tonnage — to hold 
her way in rough and head seas. These qualities were 
not irreconcilable ; but, to effect the necessary combination, 
additional size was inevitable. 

Accordingly, recognition of these facts is found in the lay- 
ing down of privateers for the particular business. Niles' 
Register, a Baltimore weekly, notes with local pride that, 
although the port itself is bolted and barred by the block- 
ade of the Chesapeake, the Baltimore model for schooners 
is in demand from Maine to Georgia ; that they are being 
built, often with Baltimore capital, in many places from 
which escape is always possible. In Boston, there are 
in construction three stout hulls, pierced for twenty-two 
guns; clearly much heavier in tonnage, as in armament, 
than the schooner rate, and bearing the linked names of 
" Blakely," " Reindeer," and " Avon." Mention is made 
of one vessel of twenty-two long, heavy guns, which has 
already sailed, and of two others, to carry as many as thirty 
to thirty-six, nearly ready.^ 

Between the divergent requirements of size and num- 
bers, there is always a middle term ; a mean, not capable of 
exact definition, but still existent within certain not very 
widely separated extremes. For commerce destroying by 
individual cruisers, acting separately, which was the meas- 
ure that commended itself to the men of 1812, vessels 
approaching the tonnage of the national sloops of war 
seemed, by their successes and their immunity from cap- 
ture, to realize very nearly the best conditions of advan- 
tage. The national brigs which put to sea were all captured, 
save one ; and she was so notoriously dull of saihng that 
her escape was attributed to mere good luck, experienced 

1 Niles' Register, vol. vii. p. 190. 


on several critical occasions. Nearly all the sloops escaped ; 
while the three frigates lost, the " Chesapeake," " Essex," 
and " President," were taken under circumstances that of- 
fered no parallel to the exigencies to which the privateer 
was liable. They were not run down, uninjured, in a fair 
race. The only sloop so lost was the "Frolic," of the 
class of the " Wasp " and " Peacock ; " and the circum- 
stances under which she was caught by a frigate are not 
sufficiently known to pronounce whether she might have 
been saved, as her sister ship, the " Hornet," was, from 
the hot pursuit of a seventy -four. Under some condi- 
tions of wind and sea, inferiority of bulk inflicts irredeem- 
able disadvantage of speed ; but, taking one thing with 
another, in a system of commerce destroying which rejected 
squadron action, and was based avowedly upon dissemina- 
tion of vessels, the gain of the frigate over the sloop due 
to size did not counterbalance the loss In distribution of 
effort which results from having only one ship, instead of 
two, for a first outlay. 

That some such convictions, the fruit of rude experi- 
ence in actual cruising, were gradually forming in men's 
understanding, is probable from the particulars cited ; and 
they would receive additional force from the consideration 
that, to make a profit out of privateering under existing 
conditions, it would be necessary, not only to capture 
vessels of weak force, but to return safely to port with 
at least some notable salvage from their cargoes. In other 
words, there must be power to fight small cruisers, and 
to escape large ones under all probable disadvantage of 
weather. Whatever the conclusions of practical seamen 
and shipowners in this respect, they found no reflection 
in the dominant power in the Administration and Con- 
gress. The exploits of the " Comet," the '• Chasseur," and 
a few other fortunate privateer schooners or brigs of small 
size, among them being cited specifically the " Mammoth," 

270 THE WAR OF 1812 

which in the autumn of 1814 made twenty-one prizes in 
three months, produced a strong popular impression ; and 
this was diligently but somewhat thoughtlessly deepened 
by the press, as such popular movements are apt to be, 
without thorough mastery of all facts, contra as well as 
pro. It was undeniable, also, that in the threatening aspect 
of affairs, when Great Britain's whole strength was freed 
to be exerted against the country, want of time to prepare 
new means was a weighty element in decision, and recourse 
must be had to resources immediately at hand for the retal- 
iatory depredation upon the enemy's commerce, from the 
effect of which so much was expected then, as it is now. 
For this reason the scheme had naval backing, prominent in 
which was Captain Porter, who had reached home in the 
July after the capture of the " Essex." 

Under these circumstances, the Secretary of the Navy 
addressed a letter, October 22, 1814,^ to the naval commit- 
tees of both houses of Congress, enlarging on the greater 
attention of the enemy drawn to the heavy frigates, and 
the increased difficulty of their getting to sea. He recom- 
mended an appropriation of $600,000 for the purchase of 
fast-sailing schooners for preying on the hostile commerce. 
In consequence, a bill was introduced to build or purchase 
for the navy twenty vessels, to carry not less than eight 
nor more than fourteen guns ; in short, of privateer class, 
but to be under naval control, not only as regarded dis- 
cipline and organization but direction of effort. It was 
intended that a squadron of them should be intrusted to 
Captain Porter, another to Captain Perry ; ^ and Porter 
drew up a plan of operations, which he submitted to the 
Department, providing for the departure of the vessels, 
their keeping together for support in one quarter, scatter- 

1 Navy Department MSS. 

2 For Porter's and Perry's correspondence on this subject see Captains' 
Letters, Navy Department MSS., Oct. 14 and 25, Nov. 29, Dec. 2, 9, and 25, 
1814; Jan. 9, 1815. , 


ing in another, and again reuniting at a fixed rendezvous.^ 
Both officers reported great difficulty in procuring suit- 
able vessels, owing to the extent of privateering, the lack 
of necessary funds, and the depreciation of Government 
credit, which caused its drafts to be refused. 

When introducing the bill into the lower House, the 
Chairman of the Naval Committee, after paying some com- 
pliments to the military achievements of the naval vessels, 
said that in regard to depredation on the commerce of the 
enemy, he believed their efficiency could not be compared 
to that of vessels of a smaller class. This note dominated 
the brief discussion; the speakers in favor being signifi- 
cantly enough from Maryland, prepossessed doubtless by 
local pride in their justly celebrated schooners. Mr. Inger- 
soll, of Pennsylvania, moved an amendment to allow ves- 
sels of twenty-two guns; an increase of fifty per cent. 
The limitation to fourteen guns, he remarked, was inserted 
in the Senate by a gentleman from Maryland ; but it was 
not the fact that the best privateers were Kmited to four- 
teen guns. One or two which had arrived lately, after 
reaping a rich harvest, carried sixteen. Mr. Lowndes, of 
South Carolina, seconded this amendment, hoping that the 
Senate Hmitation would be rejected. He quoted Captain 
Perry, who had " never known an instance in which a brig 
of the United States had failed to overtake a schooner." 
One member only, Mr. Reed, of Massachusetts, spoke 
against the whole scheme. Though opposed to the war, 
he said, he wished it conducted on correct principles. He 
"was warranted by facts in saying that no force would 
be half as efficient, in proportion to its expense ; none 
would be of so much service to the country; none cer- 
tainly would touch the enemy half so much as a naval force 
of a proper character ; " which, he affirmed, this was not. 
Ingersoll's amendment was rejected, obtaining only twenty- 

1 Porter to Secretary, Feb. 8, 1815. Captains' Letters. 

272 THE WAR OF 1812 

five votes. The bill went again to conference, and on No- 
vember 11, 1814, was reported and passed, fixing the limits 
of armament at from eight to sixteen guns ; a paltry addi- 
tion of two. Forty years later the editor of the " Debates 
of Congress," Senator Benton, wrote, "This was a move- 
ment in the right direction. Private armed vessels, and 
the success of small ships of war cruising as privateers, had 
taught Congress that small vessels, not large ships, were 
the effective means of attacking and annoying the enemy's 
commerce." ^ 

The final test was not permitted, to determine what suc- 
cess would have attended the operations of several Balti- 
more schooners, united under the single control of a man 
like Porter or Perry, and limited strictly to the injury of 
the enemy's commerce by the destruction of prizes, with- 
out thought of profit by sending them in. The advent of 
peace put a stop to an experiment which would have been 
most instructive as well as novel. Looking to other expe- 
riences of the past, it may be said with confidence little 
short of certainty that, despite the disadvantage of size, 
several schooners thus working in concert, and with pure 
military purpose, would effect vastly more than the same 
number acting separately, with a double eye to gain and 
glory. The French privateer squadrons of Jean Bart and 
Duguay Trouin, in the early eighteenth century, the ex- 
ample of the celebrated " Western " squadrons of British 
frigates in the war of the French Revolution, as protectors 
and destroyers of commerce, demonstrated beyond perad- 
venture the advantage of combined action in this, as in all 
military enterprise ; while the greater success of the indi- 
vidual United States cruiser over the average privateer, so 
singularly overlooked by the national legislators, gives 
assurance that Porter's and Perry's schooners would collect- 
ively have done incomparable work. This, however, is far 

1 Benton's Abridgment of Debates in Congress, vol. v. p. 359, note. 


from indicating that divisions of larger vessels, — sloops 
or frigates, — under officers of their known energy, could 
not have pushed home into the English Channel, or 
elsewhere where British commerce congregated, an enter- 
prise the results of which would have caused the ears of 
those that heard them to tingle. 

TOL. II. — 18 



^ CTIVE operations in the field for the winter of 
/^k 1813-14 came to an end with the successful in- 

/ — ^^ cursion of the British army upon the territory of 
JL jL- the State of New York, before narrated. ^ This 
had resulted in the capture of Fort Niagara and in the wast- 
ing of the frontier, with the destruction of the villages of 
Lewiston, Manchester, Buffalo, and others, in retaliation for 
the American burning of Newark. Holding now the forts 
on both banks of the Niagara, at its entrance into Lake Onta- 
rio, the British controlled the harbor of refuge which its 
mouth afforded ; and to this important accession of strength 
for naval operations was added an increased security for 
passing troops, at will and secretly, from side to side of 
the river. From a military standpoint each work was a 
bridge-head, assuring freedom of movement across in either 
direction ; that such transit was by boats, instead of by a 
permanent structure, was merely an inconvenient detail, 
not a disability. The command of the two forts, and of a 
third called Mississaga, on the Canadian side, immediately 
overlooking the lake, appears to have been vested in a 
single officer, to whom, as to a common superior, were 
issued orders involving the action of the three. 

This disposition recognized implicitly the fact that the 

forts, taken together, constituted a distinct element in the 

general British scheme of operations. Fort Niagara by 

position threatened the line of communications of any 

1 Ante, pp. 118-121. 


American army seeking to act on the Canadian side. An 
effective garrison there, unless checked by an adequate 
force stationed for the particular purpose, could move at 
any unexpected moment against the magazines or trains 
on the American side ; and it was impossible to anticipate 
what number might be thus employed at a given time, be- 
cause intercourse between Niagara and George was open. 
If by original or acquired superiority of numbers, as had 
been the case in 1813, the American general should push 
his opponent back towards the head of the lake. Fort 
George would in turn become an additional menace to his 
communications. Therefore, properly to initiate a cam- 
paign for the command of the Niagara peninsula, in 1814, 
it would be necessary either to reduce both these works, 
which, if they were properly garrisoned, meant an expend- 
iture of time ; or else to blockade them by a large detach- 
ment of troops, which meant a constant expenditure of 
force, diminishing that available for operations in the field. 
The British military situation thus comprised two factors, 
distinct but complementarj' ; the active army in the field, 
and the stationary fortifications which contributed to its 
support by sheltering its supplies and menacing those 
of the enemy. The British commander of the district, 
Lieutenant-General Drummond, estimated that the block- 
aders before either fort, being ever on the defensive against 
a sortie which they could not foresee, must in numbers 
considerably exceed the besieged, covered as these were by 
their works, and able to receive re-enforcement from the 
opposite shore. Consequently, when the officer in imme- 
diate local control, ^lajor-General Riall, embarrassed by the 
smallness of his field force, suggested the destruction of 
Fort Niagara, except a citadel of restricted extent, needing 
a less numerous garrison, his superior replied that not only 
would such smaller work be much more easily taken, but. 
that in every event the loss through holding the place was 

276 THE WAR OF 1812 

more than compensated by the danger and the precautions 
entailed upon the enemy.^ 

The inactivity, substantially unbroken, which prevailed 
throughout the winter of 1813-14, was due principally 
to the unusual mildness of the weather. This impeded 
movement in all quarters, by preventing the formation of 
ice and of the usual hard snow surface, which made winter 
the most favorable season for land transportation. Chaun- 
cey at Sackett's Harbor chafed and fretted over the deten- 
tion of the stores and guns for his new ships then building, 
upon which he was reckoning for control of the lake. 
" The roads are dreadful," he wrote on February 24, " and 
if the present mild weather continues we shall experience 
difficulty." A week later, "I have the mortification to 
inform you that all our heavy guns are stopped at and 
below Poughkeepsie in consequence of the badness of the 
roads, and that the teamsters have abandoned them there." 
He has given up hopes of a frost, and counts now only 
upon water communication ; but the delay and change of 
route were the cause of two smart affairs with which the 
lake operations opened, for on March 29 he announces 
that the guns are still below Albany, and now must come 
by way of Oswego and the lake,^ instead of securely inland 
by sleds. Yeo reported a like delay on his side in the 
equipment of his new ships, owing to the unusual scarcity 
of snow. 

The same conditions imposed similar, if less decisive, 
limitations upon the movements of bodies of men. The 
most important instance of purpose frustrated was in an 
enterprise projected by Drumraond against Put-in Bay, 
where were still lying the " Detroit " and " Queen Char- 
lotte," the most powerful of the prizes taken by Perry the 

1 Documentary History of the Campaign on the Niagara Frontier in 1814, 
by Ernest Cruikshank, Part I. p. 5. 

2 Captains' Letters, Feb. 24, March 4 and 29, 1814. 


previous September, the injuries to which had prevented 
their removal to the safer position of Erie. On January 
21 he communicated to Governor-General Prevost the de- 
tails of an expedition of seventeen hundred and sixty 
men,^ two hundred of them seamen, who were to start from 
the Niagara frontier by land against Detroit, and from 
there to cross on the ice to the Bass Islands, where it was 
hoped they could seize and burn the vessels. The occupa- 
tion of Fort Niagara, and other dispositions made of his 
division on the peninsula, had so narrowed his front of 
defence, and thereby strengthened it, as to warrant this 
large detachment. 

This project was one of several looking to regaining 
control of Lake Erie, which during the remainder of the 
war occupied unceasingly the attention of British officers. 
Although the particular destination was successfully con- 
cealed, the general fact of preparations for some offensive 
undertaking did not escape the observation of the Ameri- 
cans, who noted that in the recent raid and destruction care 
had been taken to spare a great number of sleighs, and to 
coUect them within the British lines. From this it was 
inferred that, when Lake Erie froze over, a dash would be 
made against the naval station and ships at Erie.^ This 
would be undoubtedly a more valuable achievement, but the 
enemy knew that the place was in some measure defended, 
with ample re-enforcements at call; whereas a descent 
upon Put-in Bay could encounter no other resistance than 
that of the small permanent garrison of seamen. The mild- 
ness of the weather, leaving the lake open on January 17, 
reheved the apprehension of the United States authoritiej?, 
and on February 3 Drummond had to report that his 
scheme must be abandoned, as after that late period of the 
winter better conditions could not be expected.^ 

1 Canadian Archives, C. 682, p. 32. 

2 Niles' Register, Feb. 5, 1814, vol. v. pp. 381, 383. 
• Canadian Archives. C. 682, p. 90. 

278 THE WAR OF 1812 

In default of the control of Lake Erie, measures were 
taken by the British to supply the remote and isolated 
posts of Mackinac and St. Joseph's by land carriage from 
Toronto to Lake Simcoe, a distance of only forty miles, 
and thence across the ice to Matchedash Bay, on Lake 
Huron ; where also were being built batteaux and gun- 
boats, to transport the stores to their destination when 
navigation opened. As far as Huron this land route was 
out of reach of probable molestation, but from there it 
was necessary to proceed at the earliest moment ; for, al- 
though there was no American naval force then on that 
lake, one might be expected to arrive from Erie early in 
the season. To this cross-country line there was an alter- 
native one still more remote, from Montreal up the Ottawa 
River, and thence by other water communication, striking 
Lake Huron much higher up. It was practicable only for 
canoes with light lading, and in other respects not satis- 
factory. The maintenance of Mackinac therefore must 
depend upon armed control of the upper lakes ; and to 
this the destruction of the prizes at the islands would 
doubtless have contributed, morally and materially. 

On the American side as little was accomplished during 
the winter. Wilkinson's army, which at the end of 1813 
was cantoned at French Mills, on the Salmon River, just 
within the New York boundary, was withdrawn from that 
position February 13. The greater part marched to Lake 
Champlain, where they again took winter quarters in two 
divisions ; one at Burlington, Vermont, the other at Platts- 
burg. The third contingent, under the command of Gen- 
eral Brown, was sent to Sackett's Harbor, where it arrived 
February 24. 

The Secretary of War, General Armstrong, despite his 
vacillating course the previous year, had never lost sight 
of his perfectly accurate conviction that Kingston, if not 
Montreal, was the true objective for the northern army. 


Convinced that he had been misled in the spring of 1813 
by the opinions of the commanders on the spot, Chauncey 
and Dearborn, he was again anxious, as he had been in the 
intervening autumn, to retrieve the error. On February 28 
he issued to Brown two sets of instructions ; ^ the one 
designed to transpire, in order to mislead the enemy, the 
other, most secret, conveying the real intention of the 
Department. In the former, stress was laid upon the ex- 
posure of western New York, and the public humiliation 
at seeing Fort Niagara in the hands of the British. Briga- 
dier-General Scott accordingly had been sent there to or- 
ganize a force for the capture of the fort and the protection 
of the frontier ; but, as his numbers were probablyiunsuffi- 
cient, Brown was directed to march to Batavia, and thence 
to Buffalo, with the two thousand troops he had just 
brought from French Mills. This letter was meant to 
reach the enemy's ears. The other, embodying the true 
object aimed at, read thus: "It is obviously Prevost's 
policy, and probably his intention, to re-establish himself 
on Lake Erie during the ensuing month. But to effect 
this other points of his Une must be weakened, and these 
will be either Kingston or Montreal. If the detachment 
from the former be great, a moment may occur in which 
you may do, with the aid of Commodore Chauncey, what 
I last year intended Pike should have done without aid, 
and what we now all know was very practicable, viz. ; to 
cross the river, or head of the lake, on the ice, and carry 
Kingston by a coup de main.'" The letter ended by mak- 
ing the enterprise depend upon a concurrence of favorable 
conditions; in brief, upon the discretion of the general, 
with whom remained all the responsibility of final decision 
and action. 

These instructions were elicited, immediately, by recent 
information that the effective garrison in Kingston was 
1 Armstrong, Notices of the War of 1812, vol. ii. p. 213. 

280 THE WAR OF 1812 

reduced to twelve hundred, with no prospect of increase 
before June, when re-enforcements from Europe were ex- 
pected. Certainly, Drummond at this time thought the 
force there no stronger than it should be, and early in 
April was apprehensive on that account for the safety 
of the place.^ Brown and Chauncey, however, agreed 
that less than four thousand men was insufficient for the 
undertaking. Singularly enough, this number was pre- 
cisely that fixed upon by Yeo and Drummond, in consul- 
tation, as necessary for the reduction of Sackett's Harbor ; 
which they concurred with Prevost in considering the 
quickest and surest solution of the difficulty attending 
their situation about Niagara, owing to the exhaustion of 
local resources upon the peninsula.^ The scarcity thus 
experienced was aggravated by the number of dependent 
Indian warriors, who with their families had followed the 
British retreat from Maiden and Detroit, and now hung 
like lead upon the movements and supplies of the army. 
" Nearly twelve hundred barrels of flour monthly to In- 
dians alone," complained the commanding officer, who had 
long since learned that for this expenditure there was 
no return in military usefulness. In the felt necessity 
to retain the good-will of the savages, no escape from 
the dilemma was open, except in the maintenance of a 
stream of supplies from Lower Canada by keeping com- 
mand of the Lake ; ^ to secure which nothing was so cer- 
tain as to capture Sackett's and destroy the shipping and 

Having decided that the enterprise against Kingston was 
not feasible. Brown fell into the not unnatural mistake of 
construing the Secretary's other letter to present not merely 
a ruse, but an alternative line of action, more consonant to 
his active martial temper than remaining idle in garrison. 

^ Canadian Archives, C. 683, p. 10. 

2 Ibid., pp. 53, 61-64. » Ibid., C. 682, p. 194. 


Accordingly, he left Sackett's with his two thousand, an 
event duly chronicled in a letter of Drummond's, that on 
Sunday, ]March 13, three thousand five hundred left Sack- 
ett's for Niagara; a statement sufficiently characteristic of 
the common tendency of an enemy's force to swell, as it 
passes from mouth to mouth. The division had progressed 
as far as the present city of Syracuse, sixty miles from 
Sackett's, and Brown himself was some forty miles in ad- 
vance of it, at Geneva, when one of his principal sub- 
ordinates persuaded him that he had misconstrued the 
Department's purpose. In considerable distress he turned 
about, passing through Auburn on the 23d at the rate of 
thirty miles a day, so said a contemporary newspaper,^ and 
hurried back to Sackett's. There further consultation with 
Chauncey convinced him again that he was intended to go 
to Niagara, and he resumed his march. Before April 1 he 
reached Batavia, where his instructions read he would receive 
further orders. General Scott was already at Buffalo, and 
there the troops were placed under his immediate charge 
for organization and drill ; Brigadier-General Gaines being 
sent back to command at Sackett's, where he arrived 
April 10. 

At this moment Chauncey was undergoing his turn of 
qualms. " The enemy," he wrote the following day, " have 
prepared a force of three thousand troops, with gunboats 
and a number of small craft, to attack the harbor the mo- 
ment the fleet leaves it. They may, however, be deter- 
mined to make the attack at all hazards, and I am sorry 
to say our force is but little adapted to the defence of the 
place. There are not a thousand effective men besides the 
sailors and marines." ^ His information was substantially 
correct. Drummond had arranged to concentrate three 
thousand men from the north shore of the lake ; but he 

1 Niles' Register, April 9, 1814, vol. vi. p. 102. 

2 Captains' Letters, April 11, 1814. 

282 THE WAR OF 1812 

wanted besides eight hundred from the peninsula, and for 
lack of these the project was abandoned. 

The movement of Brown's small contingent to Buffalo, 
though contrary to the intention of the Government, may 
be considered to have opened the campaign of 1814 ; des- 
tined to prove as abortive in substantial results as that of the 
year before, but not so futile and inglorious to the Ameri- 
can arms. The troops engaged had been formed under the 
skilful organization and training of Scott. Led by Brown, 
who, though not an educated soldier nor a master of the 
technicalities of the profession, was essentially an aggres- 
sive fighting man of masculine qualities, they failed indeed 
to achieve success, for which their numbers were indequate ; 
but there was no further disgrace. 

Wilkinson, indeed, in his district, contrived to give to 
the beginning of operations the air of absurdity that ever 
hung round his path. Although he was the senior officer 
on the whole frontier, the Department had not notified him 
of Brown's orders. This vicious practice of managing the 
campaign from a point as distant as Washington then was, 
ignoring any local centre of control, drew subsequently the 
animadversion of the President, who in a minute to the 
Secretary remarked that " it does not appear that Izard," — 
Wilkinson's successor, — " though the senior officer of the 
district, has been made acquainted with the plan of opera- 
tions under Brown." ^ On the present occasion Wilkinson 
explained that, hearing of Brown's march by common re- 
port, and having ascertained that the enemy was sending 
re-enforcements up the St. Lawrence, he undertook an 
incursion into Lower Canada as a diversion against 
such increase of the force with which Brown must con- 
tend.2 His enterprise was directed against La CoUe, a few 

1 Writings of Madison, Edition of 1865, vol. ii. p. 413. 

2 Wilkinson's letter to a friend, April 9, 1814. Niles' Register, voL vi. 
p. 166. His official report of the affair is given, p. 131. 


miles from Plattsburg, within the Canada boundary; but 
upon arriving before the position it was found that the 
garrison were established in a stone mill, upon which the 
guns brought along could make no impression. After this 
somewhat ludicrous experience, the division, more than three 
thousand strong, retreated, having lost over seventy men. 
The result was scarcely likely to afford Brown much relief 
by its deterrent influence upon the enemy. 

This affair happened March 30, and in the course of the 
following month Wilkinson was finally superseded. He 
was succeeded by General Izard, who assumed command 
May 4, and remained in the neighborhood of Champlain, 
while Brown continued immediately responsible for Sack- 
ett's Harbor and for the force at Buffalo. On April 14 
Yeo launched two new ships, the " Prince Regent " of fifty- 
eight guns and the " Princess Charlotte " of forty ; and he 
at the same time had under construction one destined to 
caiTy one hundred and two heavy guns, superior therefore 
in size and armament to most of the British ocean navy, and 
far more formidable than any in which Nelson ever served. 
Fortunately for the Americans, this vessel, which Yeo 
undertook without authority from home, was not ready 
until October; but the former two, added to his last 
year's fleet, gave him for the moment a decided prepon- 
derance over Chauncey, who also was building but had 
not yet completed. 

Under these circumstances the project of attacking Sack- 
ett's in force was again most seriously agitated among the 
British officials, military and naval, upon whom the desti- 
tution of the Niagara peninsula pressed with increasing 
urgency. Such an intention rarely fails to transpire, espe- 
cially across a border line where the inhabitants on either 
side speak the same tongue and are often intimately 
acquainted. Desertion, moreover, was frequent from both 
parties. The rumor brought Brown back hastily to the 

284 THE WAR OF 1812 

place, where he arrived April 24. The enemy, however, 
again abandoned their purpose, and after embarking a con- 
siderable body of troops turned their arms instead against 

It will be remembered that the mildness of the winter 
had prevented the transport of guns and stores by land, 
and made necessary to accumulate them by water carriage 
at Oswego, whence there remained the lake voyage to Sack- 
ett's Harbor. This, though a coasting operation, involved 
much danger while the enemy possessed naval control. 
Meanwhile Oswego became a somewhat congested and much 
exposed intermediate station, inviting attack. Chauncey 
therefore had taken the precaution of retaining the most 
important articles, guns and their equipment, at the falls of 
the Oswego River, some twelve miles inland. The enemy's 
change of plan becoming suspected. Brown detached 
a small party — two hundred and ninety effectives — to 
defend the place, in conjunction with the few seamen 
already there. The British fleet appeared on May 5, but 
the attack was not made until the following day, weather 
conditions being unfavorable. Despite the unprepared 
state of the defences characteristic of the universal Ameri- 
can situation, on both lakes and seaboard, in this singular 
war, the officer in command offered a spirited resistance, 
inflicting considerable loss ; but the urgency to preserve 
his force, for the superior necessity of protecting under 
more favorable circumsfcinees the valuable property in the 
rear, compelled him to retreat, to escape the risk of being 
surrounded and captured. He accordingly drew off in 
good order, having lost six killed and thirty-eight wounded ; 
besides twenty-five missing, probably prisoners. The cas- 
ualties of the British, by their official reports, were eighteen 
killed and seventy-three wounded. They kept possession 
of the town during the night, retiring next day with two 
small schooners, over two thousand barrels of provisions. 


and a quantity of cordage.^ The most serious loss to the 
Americans was that of nine heavy camion ; but the bulk 
of the armament for the fleet remained safe at the falls. 

After this Yeo took position with his squadron off Sack- 
ett's Harbor, where the Americans on May 1 had launched 
a new big ship, the " Superior," to carry sixty-two guns, 
thirty-two long 32-pounders, and thirty carronades of the 
same calibre. Besides her there was building still another, 
of somewhat smaller force, without which Chauncey would 
not consider himself able to contend with the enemy.^ On 
the 20th of the month he reported that " five sail were now 
anchored between Point Peninsula and Stoney Island, about 
ten miles from the harbor, and two brigs between Stoney 
Island and Stoney Point, completely blocking both passes." 
He added, " This is the first time that I have experienced 
the mortification of being blockaded on the lakes." ^ The 
line thus occupied by the enemy covered the entire en- 
trance to Black River Bay, within which Sackett's Harbor 
lies. This situation was the more intolerable under the 
existing necessity of bringing the guns by water. Drum- 
mond, whose information was probabty good, wrote at this 
period that not more than fifteen of the heavy cannon 
needed for the new ships had arrived, and that they could 
come from Oswego only by the lake, as the roads were 
impassable except for horsemen. Carronades, cordage, and 
other stores were going on by wagon from Utica, but the 
long guns which were imperatively required could not 
do so.* 

American contrivance proved equal to the dilemma, and 
led to a marked British misadventure. A few miles south 

1 Yeo's Report, Canadian Archives, M. 389. 6, p. 116. 

2 The armaments of the corresponding two British vessels were : " Prince 
Regent," thirty long 24-ponnder8, eight 68-ponnder carronades, twenty 32- 
pounder carronades ; " Princess Charlotte," twenty-four long 24-pouuders, 
sixteen 32-poander carronades. Canadian Archives, M. 389.6, p. 109. 

' Captains' Letters. 

* Canadian Archives, C. 683, p. 157. 

286 THE WAR OF 1812 

of Black River Bay, and therefore outside the line of the 
British blockade, there was an inlet called Stoney Creek, 
from the head of which a short land carriage of three miles 
would strike Henderson's Bay. This, like Sackett's, is an 
indentation of Black River Bay, and was well within the 
hostile ships. The transit from Oswego to Stoney Creek, 
however, remained open to an enemy's attack, and to be 
effected without loss required address, enterprise, and 
rapidity of movement. The danger was lessened by the 
number of streams which enter Mexico Bay, the deep bight 
formed by the southern and eastern shores of Lake Ontario, 
between Oswego and Sackett's. These, being navigable 
for batteaux, constituted a series of harbors of refuge. 

Chauncey directed all the lighter equipment to be turned 
back from Oswego River to North Bay, on Lake Oneida, 
and the long guns to be placed in batteaux, ready to move 
instantly, either up or down, as the movements of the 
enemy or a favorable opportunity might determine. Dis- 
cretionary power to act according to circumstances was 
then given to Captain Woolsey, in local command on the 
Oswego. Woolsey made great parade of his preparations 
to send everything, guns included, back across the portage 
from the river, to North Bay. The reports reached Yeo, as 
intended, but did not throw him wholly off his guard. On 
May 27 Woolsey despatched an officer in a fast pulling 
boat to reconnoitre the coast, while he himself went with 
the requisite force to the falls. On the 28th the batteaux, 
nineteen in number, carrying twenty-one long 32-pounders, 
and thirteen lighter pieces, besides ten heavy cables, were 
run over the rapids, reaching Oswego at sunset. The look- 
out boat had returned, reporting all clear, and after dark 
the convoy started. Besides the regular crews, there were 
embarked one hundred and fifty riflemen from the army. 
The next morning at sunrise one batteau was missing, but 
the other eighteen entered the Salmon River, over twenty 


miles from Oswego. The nights were short at that season, 
and the boats heavy ; moreover there had been drenching 

At Salmon River, a party of one hundred and twenty 
Oneida Indians joined, who were to move along the coast 
on the flank of the convoy through the next stage of the 
journey, by day, to support the defence should the ap- 
proach of an enemy compel refuge to be sought in one of 
the creeks. As soon as they had taken up their march the 
batteaux also started, and at noon, ]\Iay 29, reached Big 
Sandy Creek, ten miles further on, but eight miles short of 
the final destination at Stoney Creek. Here greater care 
became necessary, on account of the nearness of the enemy's 
fleet ; and while awaiting information the division moved 
two miles up the Big Sandy, where it anchored. 

The missing batteau, carrying two long 2-l:'s and a cable, 
had been captured ; having wandered away from the rest 
of the detachment, despite the watchful care exerted to 
keep them together. Her crew betrayed the extent of 
the operation of which they formed part, and a divi- 
sion of boats was sent in quest, in charge of two cap- 
tains of the blockading vessels ; the senior officer of the 
whole being Commander Popham. On his way Popham 
fell in with another group of armed boats, which he took 
under his command, raising his total to three gun- vessels 
and four smaller boats, with near two hundred seamen and 
marines. Certain intelUgence being received that the 
convoy had entered the Big Sandy, he steered thither, 
arriving off its mouth soon after daylight of May 30. A 
reconnaissance on shore discovering the masts of the bat- 
teaux plainly visible over a marsh, with apparently no 
intervening forest, an immediate attack was decided. 
Having landed a party of flankers on either bank, the ex- 
pedition proceeded up stream with due caution, firing an 
occasional round into the brush to dislodge any possible 

288 THE WAR OF 1812 

ambush. It was not known that an escort, beyond the 
usual crews, had accompanied the movement. Such a pre- 
caution might indeed have been inferred from the impor- 
tance of the object ; but the same reason naturally, and not 
improperly, decided Popham that considerable risk was 
justifiable in order to frustrate his enemy's purpose. 

Woolsey was already forewarned of his coming. At 2 
A.M. of the same day, May 30, he had received from 
Chauncey an express, in accordance with which an officer 
was sent out upon the lake, to reconnoitre towards the 
entrance of Black Kiver Bay. At six o'clock he returned, 
having been seen and pursued by some of Popham's divi- 
sion. The riflemen and Indians were now advanced half a 
mile below the batteaux, where they found cover and con- 
cealment in the woods. At eight the British guns were 
heard. At nine a re-enforcement of cavalry and light artil- 
lery arrived from Sackett's Harbor, but it was decided that 
they should remain by the batteaux, the force already be- 
low being best adapted for bush fighting. Towards ten 
o'clock the riflemen and Indians attacked ; a circumstance 
attributed by Captain Popham to an accident befalling 
the 68-pounder carronade in the bow of the leading gun- 
boat, which compelled her to turn round, to bring into 
action her stern gun, a 24-pounder. " The enemy thought 
we were commencing a retreat, when they advanced their 
whole force, one hundred and fifty riflemen, near two hun- 
dred Indians, and a numerous body of militia and cavalry, 
who soon overpowered the few men I had. . . . The wind- 
ing of the creek, which gave the enemy a great advantage 
in advancing to intercept our retreat, rendered further 
resistance unavailing." The entire detachment surrendered, 
having had fourteen killed and twenty-eight wounded; be- 
sides whom two captains, six lieutenants, and one hundred 
and thirty-three seamen and marines remained prisoners. 
The American loss was but two wounded ; a result showing 


clearly enough the disadvantage under which the British 

This affair has been related in detail,^ because, al- 
though on a small scale, it was actually one of great con- 
sequence ; but yet more because it illustrates aptly one 
kind of those minor operations of war, upon the success 
of which so much greater mattei's turn. The American 
management throughout was admirable in its detailed fore- 
sight and circumspection. To this was due the trivial loss 
attending its final success ; a loss therefore attesting far 
greater credit than would the attaining of the same result 
by lavish expenditure of blood. To Captain Popham must 
be attributed both enterprise and due carefulness in under- 
taking an advance he knew to be hazardous, but from 
which, if successful, he was entitled to expect nothing less 
than the capture of almost the entire armament of a very 
large ship. In such circumstances censure because of 
failure is unjust, unless the risk is shown to be taken reck- 
less of due precautions, which was not the case in this 
instance. Yeo, whose deficiency in seamen was reported 
at two hundred and seventy-nine,^ three days after this 
affair, appears to have been more exasperated by the loss 
of the men than sensible of the merit of his subordinate. 
He had charged him not to enter any creek in the endeavor 
to capture the stores, and apparently laid the disaster to 
disregard of this order. The subsequent customary court 
martial decided that Popham, having greatly re-enforced 
himself by junction with a division of vessels, in a 
manner which Yeo could not have contemplated, was 
fully justified by the importance of preventing the convoy 
from reaching Sackett's Harbor. The court regretted that 

^ Woolsey's Report, forwarded by Channcey June 2, is in Captains' Letters. 
It is given, together with several other papers bearing on the affair, in Niles' 
Register, vol. vi. pp. 242, 265-267. For Popham'a Report, aee Naral Chroni- 
cle, vol. xxxii. p. 167. 

2 Canadian Archives, C. 683, p. 225. 
VOL. II. — 19 

290 THE WAR OF 1812 

Sir James Yeo should have used such reproachful expres- 
sions in his letter to the Admiralty communicating Captain 
Popham's capture. Popham, and his second, Spilsbury, 
were included in the promotions of a year later. 

Soon after this mishap Yeo abandoned the immediate 
blockade of Sackett's Harbor, returning to Kingston June 
6. The recent experience demonstrated that it would be 
impossible to prevent the forwarding of supplies by the 
mere presence of the fleet at the mouth of the port. The 
armament of the " Superior " had arrived despite his efforts, 
and her speedy readiness to take the lake was assured. 
An exchanfje of letters between himself and Drummond 
as to his proper course ^ led to the conclusion that the 
blockade had not had all the effect expected ; and that, 
in view of the large re-enforcements of men coming forward 
from England, the true policy was to avoid battle until the 
third new ship, the " St. Lawrence " of one hundred and 
two guns, should be ready. " The enemy," wrote Yeo, 
" are not in sufficient force to undertake any expedition in 
the face of our present squadron, but any disaster on our 
side might give them a serious ascendancy." Drummond, 
who had rejoiced that the blockade " assures us a free inter- 
course throughout the lake," concurred in this view. " I 
have no hesitation in saying that there exists at present no 
motive or object, connected with the security of Upper 
Canada, which can make it necessary for you to act other- 
wise than cautiously on the defensive," until the large 
ship is ready or other circumstances arise. 

On June 7 the Cabinet of the United States held a 
meeting, in which was settled the plan of campaign on the 
northern frontier ; ^ where alone, and for a brief period 
only, an expected superiority of numbers would permit 
offensive operations. As in the year before, the decision, 

1 Cruikshank's Documentary History, 1814, pp. 18-20. 

2 Writings of Madison (Edition of 1865), vol. iii. p. 403. 


in general terms, was to direct the main effort against the 
enemy's right and centre, Mackinac and the Niagara penin- 
sula, instead of against his left, at Montreal or Kingston. 
The principal movement was to be by a concentration near 
Buffalo of forces from New York and the western terri- 
tory, which the Secretary of War estimated might place 
under Brown's command five thousand regular troops and 
three thousand volunteers. He had proposed that these, 
with the assistance of the Erie navy, should be landed on 
the coast between Fort Erie, at the entrance of the Niagara 
River, and Point Abino, ten miles to the westward. Thence 
they were to act against Burlington Heights, at the head 
of Lake Ontario, the tenure of which by Vincent in 
1813, had baffled, on two occasions, the advance of the 
Americans, and maintained the land communications of 
the British with York (Toronto) despite their enemy's 
control of the water. The Secretary's anticipation was 
that, after gaining this position, the force could proceed 
along the north shore of the lake towards York, receiving 
its supplies by the fleet, which was expected to be ready 
by June 15. Chauncey himself stated June 8 that he 
would be ready by July 1, if men were sent him.^ On the 
11th was launched a second new ship, the " Mohawk," 
to carry forty-two guns. The crew of the "Congress" 
was ordered up from Portsmouth, and part of them, with 
otiier re-enforcements, were reported to have arrived before 
June 20. Jun^ 21 Chauncey -wrote, "I shall sail the 
first week in July to offer the enemy battle." ^ He did not, 
however, take the Lake until August 1. 

The Cabinet had approved the Secretary's suggestion, 
but extended the place of debarkation to be between Fort 
Erie and Long Point, eighty miles from the Niagara River, 
and well west of Burlington Heights. Subsidiary to this 
main attack, General Izard at Plattsburg was to make 

^ Captains' Letters. > Ibid. 

292 THE WAR OF 1812 

a diversion towards Montreal. Coincidently with these 
movements an expedition of four or five of the Erie fleet, 
with eight hundred to one thousand troops, should go 
against Mackinac ; their first object, however, being Matche- 
dash Bay, on Lake Huron, which was the seat of an in- 
cipient naval establishment, and the point of deposit for 
supplies proceeding to Mackinac from York by way of 
Lake Simcoe. This attempt to choke the communications 
of Mackinac, by holding a vital point upon their line, was 
to have its counterpart in the east by the provision of fif- 
teen armed boats on the St. Lawrence, supported by posts 
on the river garrisoned by detachments from Izard's army, 
so as to intercept the water transport between Montreal and 
Kingston. It may be mentioned that this particular method 
had specially commended itself to both Yeo and Chauncey, 
as most suited to embarrass the British situation through- 
out the upper province. In a subsequent report to the 
Admiiulty, Yeo characterized the failure of the Ameri- 
cans to do this as an extreme stupidity, which had lost 
them the war, but upon a repetition of which in future 
hostilities Great Britain should not rely.^ The impor- 
tance of this intercourse is indicated by a mention of 
Chauncey's, that in the week before June 15 more than 
two hundred boats passed Ogdensburg for Kingston. ^ 

All this, however, simply emphasizes the fact that the 
decisive point of attack was Montreal or Kingston ; not 
the line between them, which would bec^ome useless if 
either fell. Still less could the Niagara peninsula, though 
a valuable link in a chain of communication from the lower 
to the upper lakes, compare in importance with either of the 
places named. It matters not that a chain is complete in 
itself, if it is severed from one of the extremities which it 

1 Yeo to Admiralty, May 30, 1815. Canadian Archives, M. 389.6, p. 310. 
For Chauncey'.s opinion to the same effect, see Captains' Letters, Nov. 5, 1814. 

2 Captains' Letters, June 15, 1814. 


is designed to connect. As regards any attempt on the 
part of the Americans to interrupt the traffic, Drummond 
appears to have been satisfied -w^th Yeo's promise that 
" every brigade of batteaux should have a suitable convoy 
of gunboats." 

The Secretary of War, in his communication to the 
President before the Cabinet met, had indicated plainly his 
preference for leaving Mackinac alone and concentrating 
upon the central point of effort, Niagara or Burlington. 
"Burlington and York carried, a barrier is interposed 
which completely protects Detroit and Maiden, makes 
doubtful and hazardous the enemy's intercourse with the 
western Indians, reduces Mackinac to a possession per- 
fectly useless, renders probable the evacuation of Fort 
Niagara, and takes from the enemy half his motive for 
continuing the naval conflict on Lake Ontario. On the 
other hand, take Mackinac, and what is gained but Mack- 
inac itself ? " ^ The reasoning was indisputable, although 
Armstrong acquiesced in the decision of the Cabinet. The 
main feature of the plan adopted, the reduction of Bur- 
lington Heights and a successful advance on York, was of 
doubtful issue; but, if successful, the vital end of the 
chain upon which Mackinac depended for existence dropped 
useless to the ground. All side enterprise that did not 
directly contribute to this decisive movement should have 
been discarded in favor of concentration upon Brown's 
army, to which its execution was committed, and the actual 
strength of which was insufficient for the task. At the 
opening of the campaign its total strength was four thou- 
sand seven hundred and eighty, of whom eight hundred 
and thirty were militia.^ On July 1 there were present 
for duty three thousand five hundred. There were also six 

1 Armstrong to Madison, April 31 (sic), 1814. Armstrong's Notices of 
War of 1812, vol. ii. p. 413. 

2 These official returns are taken by the present writer from Mr. Henry- 
Adams' History of the United States. 

294 THE WAR OF 1812 

hundred Indians of the Six Nations. In this impotent con- 
clusion resulted the Secretary's estimate of five thousand 
regulars and three thousand volunteers. 

On July 2 Brown announced to his troops that he was 
authorized by the Government to put them in motion 
against the enemy .^ He had decided to leave Fort Niagara, 
with its menace to his communications, in his rear, un- 
guarded, and to throw his command directly upon the 
enemy on the west bank of the river. The crossing was 
made that night in two divisions ; one landing opposite 
Black Rock, below Fort Erie, the other above that post, 
which surrendered July 3, at 5 P.M. The garrison num- 
bered one hundred and thirty-seven. From there Brown pro- 
posed to turn north and advance towards Ontario, where he 
hoped to join hands with the navy, which was expected by 
him, and by the Government, to be on hand to co-operate. 
This expectation was based on Chauncey's own assurance 
that he would take the lake on July 1, if supplied with 
men, who were known since to have arrived. It does not 
appear, however, that he had received specific instructions 
as to the course he was intended to follow ; and, in as- 
suming that he would go to the head of the lake, for 
direct co-operation, the Government and the general were 
reckoning without their host, and in ignorance of his 
views. He was as loath to leave Kingston and Sackett's 
in his rear, un watched, as Brown was willing to take the 
same risk with regard to Niagara. It was a profound dif- 
ference of temperament in two capable men, to whom the 
Government failed to impart the unifying element of 

On July 4 Scott's brigade, which had crossed below the 
fort, advanced from Fort Erie fifteen miles, to Street's 
Creek, a small stream, bridged near its mouth, entering 

1 Cruikshank's Documentary History of the Niagara Campaign of 1814, 
p. 37. 


the Niagara two miles south of the Chippewa River, the 
defensive line selected by the British, who noAV fell 
back upon it. The Chippewa is of respectable size, 
one hundred and fifty yards wide, and from twelve to 
twenty feet deep, running from west to east. In general 
direction it is parallel to Street's Creek; both entering 
the Niagara at right angles to its course. In the belt 
separating the two the ground is flat, and was in great part 
open ; but midway between them there was a strip of thick 
wood extending down to within a few hundred feet of 
the Niagara. This formed a dense curtain, hiding move- 
ments on either side from the other. The British forces 
under Riall w^ere now north of the Chippewa, Scott's brig- 
ade south of Street's ; each having a bridge by which to 
advance into the space between. The other American 
brigade, Ripley's, was in rear of Scott — to the south. 

In this relative situation, Scott's pickets on the left 
being disquieted by the British and Indians in the inter- 
vening woods, Brown ordered up the militia and American 
Indians under General Porter to expel them. This was 
done ; but upon reaching the clearing on the further side, 
the Indians, who were in the lead, encountered a heavy fire, 
which drove them back upon the militia, and the whole 
body retreated in a confusion which ended in a rout.^ Riall 
had crossed the Chippewa, and was advancing in force, 
although he believed Brown's army much to outnumber 
his own now on the field, which in fact it did. Gordon 
Drummond, in his instructions to him some months before, 
(March 23), had remarked that with the Americans liberties 
might be taken which would seem hazardous " to a miK- 
tary man unacquainted with the character of the enemy he 
had to contend with, or with the events of the last two 
campaigns on that frontier." ^ This unflattering, but not 
unreasonable, deduction from the performances of Dear- 

1 Craikshank, Docamentary History. s Ibid., p. 4. 

296 THE WAR OF 1812 

born and others in 1813, as of Smyth, and Van Rensselaer 
in 1812, was misplaced in the present instance ; but it 
doubtless governed Riall's action, and justified it to him- 
self and his superiors. He had not been engaged since he 
drove the militia of New York before him like sheep, in 
the preceding December; and he would have attacked on 
the very night after the crossing, but that a regiment from 
York, which he had reason to expect twenty-four hours 
before, did not arrive until the morning of the 5th. The 
instant it came he made his dispositions to move at 4 p.m. 
of the same day. 

It was this advance which met Porter and threw his 
division back, uncovering the wood on the west. Scott 
at the same moment was marching his brigade into the 
open space between Street's Creek and the Chippewa; 
not to meet the enemy, whom he did not expect, but for 
some drill in the cool of a hot summer's afternoon. As he 
went forwaixi, the Commander-in-Chief, who had been 
reconnoitring in front, rode by, galloping to the rear to 
bring up his remaining force ; for, while the army in the 
aggregate was superior to Riall, the one brigade was in- 
ferior. In passing, he called to Scott, " You will have a 
battle " ; and the head of the latter's column, as it crossed 
the bridge, came at once under the enemy's guns. 

Although inferior, exposed, and in a sense surprised, 
both commander and men were equal to the occasion. 
The division deployed steadily under fire, and its leader, 
sending hastily one battalion to check the enemy in the 
wood, formed front with the remainder of his force to meet 
those in the plain. These, being yet unopposed, advanced 
beyond the line of the wood, passing their own detach- 
ment within it, which was held in check by the Americans 
charged with that duty. Losing thus their support on that 
side, the British presented a new right flank, to use Scott's 
expression. Thereupon he extended his two wings as far 


as he dared, leaving between them a considerable interval, 
so as to overlap his opponent at either extremity ; which 
done, he threw his left forward. His brigade thus formed 
an obtuse angle, the apex to the rear, the bullets there- 
fore converging and crossing upon the space in front, into 
which it and the enemy were moving. In the approach 
both parties halted several times to fire, and Scott says 
that the superiority of aim in his own men was evident. 
When within sixty paces a mutual rush, or charge, ensued ; 
but the overlapping of the Americans crowded the flanks 
of the enemy in upon his centre and produced confusion, 
to which the preceding fire doubtless had contributed. 
Scott's own description is that "the wings of the enemy 
being outflanked, and in some measure doubled upon, were 
mouldered away like a rope of sand." ^ In this brief and 
brilliant struggle only the one brigade was engaged. 

Riall's account agrees substantially with that of Scott, 
mentioning particularly " the greatest regularity " with 
which his opponents " deployed and opened fii'e." ^ He 
directed a charge by the three regiments in line, "but 
I am sorry to say that they suffered so severely that I 
was obliged to withdraw them, finding their further efforts 
against the superior numbers of the enemy would be un- 
availing." He was right in believing that the aggregate 
of Brown's army, although much short of the six thousand 
he estimated, was superior to that which he could bring 
together without abandoning posts he had to hold; but 
he was mistaken in thinking that in the actual collision 
his opponents were more numerous than the fifteen hun- 
dred regulars at which he states his own force, besides 
three hundred militia. Scott's brigade, with its support- 
ing artillery, when it crossed four days before, was less than 
fifteen hundred ; and the militia and Indians were routed 

1 Scott's Autobiography, vol. i. pp. 130-132. 
' Craiksbank's Documentary History, p. 31. 


298 THE WAR OF 1812 

before he began to fight. His artillery also was of lighter 
weight. The superiority of the American fire was shown 
by the respective losses. They were: British, one hun- 
dred and forty-eight killed, two hundred and twenty-one 
wounded, forty-six missing ; American, fifty-six killed, two 
hundred and thirty-nine wounded, thirty-six missing. Of 
this total, there fell to Scott's command forty-four killed, 
and two hundred and twenty-four wounded ; demonstrat- 
ing conclusively that it alone was seriously engaged. Not 
a man was reported missing. The other brigade lost only 
three killed and three wounded. At the end of the action 
it was coming up on Scott's left, where he was most ex- 
posed, but it did not arrive until he had wrought his own 
deliverance. The remaining casualties were among the 
militia and Indians. 

After the battle of Chippewa, Riall fell back towards 
Fort George, and subsequently to the creek called Twenty 
Mile, west of Niagara, on Lake Ontario. Brown followed 
as far as Queenston, where he arrived July 10. On the 
13th he wrote to Chauncey, begging for the fleet to meet 
him on the lake shore, west of Fort George, to arrange a 
plan of operations; in which case he had no doubt of 
breaking the power of the enemy in Upper Canada in a 
short time. " All accounts," he said, " represent the force 
of the enemy at Kingston as very light. Sir James Yeo 
will not fight," — which was certain. "For God's sake, 
let me see you. I have looked" for your fleet with the 
greatest anxiety since the 10th." ^ 

Chauncey had not left Sackett's Harbor, nor did he do so ; 
to the utter consternation, not of Brown only, but of the 
Government. On July 7 he chronicled the burning of an 
enemy's schooner on the north shore of the lake,^ an exploit 
creditable enough in itself, but utterly trivial in relation to 
pending issues ; and on the 8th he wrote that some changes 

1 Niles' Register^ vol. vii. p. 38. ^ Captains' Letters. 


of officers and crews, incidental to the absence of a par- 
ticular captain, would detain him a few days longer.^ These 
were flimsy reasons for inactivity at a moment of great 
national interest, and when the operations in progress had 
been begun absolutely upon the presupposition of naval 
control and co-operation, for which he had undertaken to 
provide the means, even if not pledged as to the manner. 
Then followed a silence of over two weeks ; after which, 
on July 25, he wrote again by his second to say that " the 
squadron had been prevented being earlier fitted for sea, 
in consequence of the delay in obtaining blocks and iron- 
work," ^ He himself was too unwell to write, and had 
been so for some days. It is probable that lapse of energy 
consequent upon illness had something to do with this 
remarkable paralysis of action, in a man usually bustling 
and efficient ; and there may naturally have been unwill- 
ingness to rehnquish command, — which would have been 
his proper course, — after the mortifications of the previ- 
ous year, when he was just flattering himself with the 
prospect of a new opportunity. 

This inaction, at the critical moment of Brown's advance, 
caused the Government extreme perplexity and distress. 
In Chauncey was reposed a confidence expressed by the 
Secretary of the Navy to Congress the year before, when the 
resolution of thanks to Perry was pending. He then " in- 
timated the propriety of noticing in an appropriate manner 
the commander-in-chief of the naval force upon the lakes, 
under whose immediate command Captain Perry acted ; " 
and spoke of the " zeal, talent, constancy, courage, and pru- 
dence of the highest order, which appears to me to merit 
particular distinction." ^ Such preconceived opinion was 
hard to shake; but as day succeeded day of expectation 

1 Secretary of the Navy to Chauncey, July 24, 1814, Secretary's Letters. 
* Secretary to Chauncey, Aug. 3, 1814. Ihid. 
« Ibid., Dec. 29, 1813. ' 

300 THE WAR OF 1812 

and suspense, the patience of the Administration gave way. 
Letters bearing those elaborated phrases of assurance which 
most clearly testify uneasiness were sent him, but did 
not arrive till after Brown had retreated and he himself 
taken the lake. On July 24 the Secretary writes, " I 
have expressed the solicitude which has produced this 
letter, but my confidence in your patriotism, skill, judgment, 
and energy is entire." On August 3, however, he says the 
explanation about blocks and ironwork — apparently just 
received — is so extraordinary at such a moment that " I 
cannot withhold from you the extreme anxiety and aston- 
ishment which the protracted and fatal delay of the squad- 
ron has excited in the mind of the President ; " and on the 
5th, " the known detention of the squadron at Sackett's 
Harbor until the 27th ultimo, the very feeble and precari- 
ous state of your health, the evils which have already 
resulted from delay," etc., "have induced the President, 
though with extreme reluctance, and undiminished con- 
fidence in your zeal and capacity, to order Commodore 
Decatur to proceed to Sackett's Harbor and take upon 
himself the naval command on Lake Ontario." 

The proposed change did not take place, the squadron 
having already resumed active cruising. The Secretary 
repeated his expressions of confidence, but does not appear 
to have renewed his recommendations to Congress. Chaun- 
cey, stung by the reflections, open and implied, upon his 
conduct, retorted with a defence and definition of his coui*se, 
as proposed and realized, which raises the whole question of 
the method of naval co-operation under the circumstances, 
and of its probable effectiveness. Replying to Brown's 
letter of July 13, quoted above, he said positively that he 
had never given the general ground to expect him at the 
head of the lake.^ This assertion he repeated to the Sec- 
retary, whose letters to him demonstrate that the Govern- 

1 Chauncej to Brown, Aug. 10, 1814. Niles' Register, vol. vii. p. 38. 


ment had left him entire discretion as to his particular 
method of procedure. Acting therefore upon his own 
judgment, he justified his course by alleging that direct 
co-operation at the Niagara end of the lake was impossible, 
because the heavy ships could not get within two miles of 
the forts, and Brown's army had never advanced to the 
lake shore ; consequently, the fleet could neither have acted 
duectly by itself, nor yet in support of a land force, with 
which it could not communicate. So much for the nega- 
tive side of the argument. Positively, he said, the mission 
of the nav}- was to seek and fight the enemy's squadron ; 
and this duty was emphasized by the fact tiiat to go west- 
ward to Niagara, while the enemy was at Kingston, would 
expose to capture Sackett's Harbor, the safety of which 
had remained a dominant anxiety with Chauncey since its 
narrow escape the previous year. 

The protection of his own base, and the controlling or 
l>eating the organized force of the enemy, are unquestion- 
ably two leading considerations which should govern the 
general conduct of a general officer, land or sea. In these 
particulars Chauncey's statement was unassailable; but, 
whether well or ill, he seems to have been incapable of 
rising to the larger estimate of naval control, to which the 
Tules enunciated conduce simply as a formulation of prin- 
ciples, giving to action preciseness and steadiness of direc- 
tion. The destruction of the enemy's fleet is the means to 
obtain naval control; but naval control in itself is only 
a means, not an object. The object of the campaign, 
set by the Government, was the acquii-ement of mastery 
upon the Niagara peninsula, to the accomplishment of 
which Brown's army was destined. Naval control would 
minister thereto, partly by facilitating the re-cnforcement 
and supply of the American army, and, conversely, by im- 
peding that of the British. Of these two means, the latter 
was the more efficacious, because, owing to the thoroughly 

302 THE WAR OF 1812 

denuded condition of the Canadian territory, from th& 
Niagara to Detroit, local resources were exhausted, and de- 
pendence was wholly upon the water ; whereas the United 
States forces, near a fruitful friendly region, and in posses- 
sion of Lake Erie, had other independent and sufficient 
streams of maintenance. 

To weaken the British was b}' so much to strengthen 
BroAvn, even though direct communication with him were 
impossible. It was of this that the British stood in con- 
tinual anxious terror, as shown by their letters ; and this, 
it was that Chauncey gives no sign of recognizing. Of 
support to his oivn colleague he spoke with ill-timed scorn : 
" That you might find the fleet somewhat of a convenience 
in the transportation of provisions and stores for the use 
of the army, and an agreeable appendage to attend its- 
marches and countermarches, I am ready to believe ; but. 
Sir, the Secretary of the Navy has honored us with a higher 
destiny — we are intended to seek and to fight the enemy's 
fleet. This is the great purpose of the Government in 
creating this fleet ; and I shall not be diverted in my efforts- 
to effectuate it by any sinister attempt to render us subor- 
dinate to, or an appendage of, the army." It would be 
difficult to cite an apter instance of wresting sound prin- 
ciples to one's own destruction. Whatever the antecedent 
provocation, this is no temper in which to effect miUtary 
objects. It is indeed hard to believe that an army so little 
numerous as that of Brown could have accomplished the 
ambitious designs confided to it ; but that does not affect 
the clear duty of affording it the utmost assistance that 
ingenuity could devise and energy effect. The words 
quoted were written August 10, but ignore entirely an 
alternative suggested in a letter received that day from the 
Secretary, dated July 24, itself the repetition of one made 
July 20 : " To destroy the enemy's fleet, or to blockade his 
force and cut off his entire communication with the head 


of the lake."" The civilian here indicated clearly what 
the naval officer should have known from the very first 

As before said, the contemporary correspondence of 
British officers abundantly shows their anxiety lest Chaun- 
cey, in these important weeks, should do what he did not 
do. Sir James Yeo had deliberately formulated the poUcy 
of remaining inactive in Kingston until the completion of 
the 102-gun ship, which would give him command of the 
lake beyond chance of dispute. To occupy the American 
fleet meanwhile with a local blockade, which he intended 
not to contest, was precisely what he wanted. To dis- 
tress the army at Niagara to the point of evacuating the 
peninsula was the one only thing that might impel — or 
compel — him to come out and fight, despite his deliberate 
intention. " Several small vessels,"' wrote the Commissary- 
General a month later ^ to Sir George Prevost, " Avere de- 
spatched while the enemy's squadron were unable to leave 
Sackett's Harbor ; but since the enemy commands the lake, 
that resource for the moment is cut off, and only batteaux 
can be employed. These are [not] ^ a very useful convey- 
ance, not only from the danger of the enemy's small vessels, 
which can approach the shore without difficulty, but also 
from want of proper steersmen, pilots, and middlemen. . . . 
This feeble means of transport will never effect the form- 
ing of a sufficient depot at York, Burlington Heights, and 
Niagara; and, unless the commissariat can be aided to 
a great extent by the Royal Navy, the most disastrous 
consequences must ensue." 

At the date this was written, August 27, Chauncey's 
force was that which he had promised should be ready 
July 1, but with which he did not sail until August 1, — 

1 Angnst 27. Craikshank's Documentary History, pp. 180-182. The 
whole letter has interest as conveying an adequate idea of the communications 

^ This word is wanting ; but the context evidently requires it. 

304 THE WAR OF 1812 

too late. The very efficiency of his action in August con- 
demns therefore his inaction in July. Besides his two new- 
big ships, which matched Yeo's two, he had added to the 
fleet of the previous year, then superior to the British, two 
brigs of tlie armament and tonnage of the ocean sloops of 
war, — the " Peacock " and class. Against these Yeo had 
nothing to show. It was therefore open to Chauncey to 
blockade Kingston with an equal force, thus covering 
Sackett's, and to despatch to the head of the lake vessels 
adequate to embarrass Riall and Druramond most seriously. 
From York to Niagara by land was eighty miles of road 
impassable to laden wagons ; by lake thirty miles of water 
facility. From Kingston to York, an additional distance 
of a hundred and fifty miles, the same relative difficulty of 
transportation obtained. Yet as late as July 13, Drum- 
mond could write from Kingston, " As troops cannot be for- 
warded without provisions, I have requested Sir James Yeo 
to send his two brigs immediately, with as much flour and 
pork as they can carry to York and Burlington." On the 
16th, " The ' Charwell ' sailed yesterday for the head of 
the lake with provisions and ammunition. I have strong 
hopes she will arrive safe, as the enemy's whole squadron 
are lying in Sackett's with their sails bent, and apparently 
ready for sea, though no guns forward of the foremast 
could be perceived on board the * Mohawk.' "^ 

Yeo, holding both York and the mouth of the Niagara, 
ventured thither two brigs and two schooners, under Cap- 
tain Dobbs, one of his officers. " Without their valuable 
aid in the transport of troops and stores," wrote Drum- 
mond, August 12, "I certainly should not have been able 
to attempt offensive operations so soon after ray arrival." 
By that time, when Brown had of necessity abandoned the 
offensive, " Commodore Chauncey has left three of his 
brigs to watch our vessels in the Niagara. They continue 

1 Cruikshank's Documentary History, 1814, pp. 58, 60. 


cruising off that place." ^ Chauncey, in his letter of vindi- 
cation to the Secretary, had maintained that " if our whole 
fleet were at the head of the lake, it would not detain 
a regiment from [York to] Fort George more than twenty- 
four hours. . . . Any one who knows anything of the 
navigation of this lake knows that boats may cross the 
head of the lake, from York to the opposite shore, unob- 
served by any fleet during the night." ^ Admitting that 
there is no literal exaggeration in this statement, it takes 
no account of the enemy's apprehensions, nor of the deci- 
sive difficulty of running vessels of a size to transport the 
heavy stores, without which the army could not remain. 
No one familiar with maritime affairs will deny the im^ 
possibiUty of wholly suppressing all furtive movement of 
small coasters, but it is equally certain much can be done 
to impede that full course ' of supplies which constitutes 
security of communication. To Chauncey's affirmation, 
Drummond gives an incidental reply, September 2 : " The 
enemy's blockading squadron not having been seen for 
some days, I sent the * Vincent ' across to York, where 
she has arrived in safety, and Captain Dobbs has directed 
the ' Charwell ' to push across the first morning the wind 
is fair. By their aid I got rid of many encumbrances 
(prisoners and sick), and shall receive the supplies that 
are waiting at York for this division." ^ 

It is needless to multiply quotations from the utterances, 
and frequent outcries, that run throughout this correspon- 
dence. Chauncey, from early July, had it in his hand seri- 
ously to molest the British communications, and at the 
same time to contain the British squadron in Kingston. 
Such action would subject Yeo to the just and humiliating 
imputation of suffering the harassment of the army with- 

1 Cruikshank's Documentary History, 1814, p. 134. 

2 Captains' Letters. Ang. 19, 1814. 

3 Cruikshank's Documentary History, 1814, p. 191. 

VOL. II. — 20 

306 THE WAR OF 1812 

out an attempt at relief, or else would compel him to come 
out and fight under conditions which, " whatever the re- 
sult," to use Nelson's words, " would leave his squadron 
in a state to do no further harm," till the big ship was 
ready. Thus also Chauncey would cover his base ; for, as 
Prevost wrote, " while Kingston is blockaded, no move- 
ment against Sackett's Harbor can take place." It was 
Chauncey's misfortune himself to demonstrate his own 
shortcoming by the profound distress he inflicted, when 
sounder measures were instituted after the censure of the 
Government, — too late. 

One of the most conspicuous instances of the effect of 
this neglect was realized in the desperate and sanguinary 
engagement of Lundy's Lane, the occurrence of which, at 
the time and in the manner it did, as stated by one of the 
chief actors, Winfield Scott, was due directly to the freedom 
of the lake to the British. Brown had remained at Queens- 
ton for some days after July 10, in painful suspense. A 
reconnaissance in force was made on the 15th by the militia 
brigade under General Porter, accompanied by two pieces 
of artillery, which moved round Fort George as far as 
Lake Ontario, whence the general reported " we had an 
opportunity to examine the northern face of Forts Riall 
and Niagara, about two miles distant." ^ Beyond a few 
random shots, no opposition was experienced. On the 20th 
the army as a whole advanced to the neighborhood of Fort 
George, and made a demonstration of throwing up siege 
works ; not without serious intention, for Brown had not 
yet abandoned hope of receiving the cannon of necessary 
weight, 24-pounders, from Sackett's Harbor. He had with 
him only eighteens. Riall was greatly alarmed, exaggerat- 
ing the force before him, and receiving reports of re-enforce- 
ments expected by the lake. On July 22 he sent hasty 
and pressing word of the impending emergency to Drum- 

1 Craikshank's Documentary History, 1814, p. 68. 


mond, who arrived the same evening at York from Kings- 
ton ; but in the afternoon of the day he was able to give bet- 
ter tidings. The Americans were falling back again upon 
Queenston, abandoning the positions recently assumed.^ 

Brown had hoped that by his advance, blowing up the 
works at Queenston, and leaving his rear evidently much 
exposed, Riall might be induced to attack. The British 
general was much disposed to do so ; but refrained, fearing 
for his own communications. On the morning of the 23d 
an express from General Gaines, commanding at Sackett's 
Harbor, reached Brown at Queenston, informing him that 
Chauncey was sick, that no one knew when the fleet would 
sail, and that an endeavor had been made to send forward 
by batteaux, coasting the south shore, the 24-pounder guns 
needed for besieging Fort George ; but the officer in com- 
mand had stopped at the mouth of Black River Bay, think- 
ing himseK in danger from the British squadron.^ A 
contemporary account reads : " July 20, Morgan with the 
riflemen and cannon prevented from sailing by Yeo's block- 
ade of the harbor." 3 Apparently, Yeo had even come 
out of port, in order by menace of attack to arrest the 
forwarding of this essential succor. Chauncey's incidental 
mention is positive that he approached no nearer than the 
Ducks, some large islands thirty miles south of Kingston, 
and forty west of Sackett's ; * but it is obvious that in the 
quiescence of the American squadron such a position was 
prohibitive of movement by batteaux. It may readily be 
conceived that had Brown's demonstration against the fort 
been coupled with an attempt to land the guns from a 
naval division, Riall might have felt compelled to come out 
of his lines. 

1 Cniikshank's Documentary History, 1814. Biall to Dnimmond, July 20, 
21, 22, pp. 75-81. 

a Ibid., p. 87. » Ibid., p. 78. 

* " Sir James Yeo has not been nearer Sackett's Harbor than the Ducks 
since June .5." Captains' Letters, Aug. 19, 1814. 

308 TEE WAR OF 1812 

Neither guns nor naval division appeared, and Drummond, 
able to move troops freely across the lake, concerted now 
a plan for striking a dangerous blow from Fort Niagara, 
against Brown's communications on the New York side ; the 
exposed condition of which was known to him. This was 
the immediate offensive of which he had spoken; his 
ability to undertake which he attributed to naval aid. He 
had as adjutant-general Lieutenant-Colonel Harvey, the 
same who suggested and executed the brilliant stroke that 
disconcerted Dearborn's campaign in 1813 ; and who on the 
present occasion drew up the instructions to Riall, and to 
Lieutenant-Colonel Tucker, tlie officer in charge of the 
forts, with a delightful lucidity which characterizes all 
papers signed by him.^ The brigs " Star " and " Char- 
well" left York July 23, with a re-enforcement of four 
hundred men for Fort Niagara, in which post the officer 
commanding was' directed to concentrate so many more 
as would enable him to carry a full regiment of regulars 
against batteries that were being put up at Youngstown. 
This movement was to be made at daylight of Monday, 
July 25, and General Riall was instructed to support it by a 
threatening demonstration on his side of the river. On the 
evening of the 24th, Drummond himself sailed from York 
in one of Yeo's schooners, and by daybreak reached Niagara. 

Upon his arrival, — or possibly before, — he learned that 
the Americans had retired further, to the Chippewa. 
The motive for this backward step was to draw necessary 
supplies across the river, from the magazines at Fort 
Schlosser, and to leave there all superfluous baggage, prior 
to a rush upon Burlington Heights, which Brown had now 
substituted as the point of attack, in consequence of his 
disappointment about the siege guns.^ It had been his 

1 Cruikshank's Documentary History, 1814, pp. 82, 84. 

2 Brown's Report of Lundy's Lane to Secretary of War, Aug. 7, 1814. 
Ibid., p. 97. 


intention to rest over the 2oth, in order to start forward 
fresh on the 26th. This retrograde movement, inducing 
Riall to advance, changed the situation found by Drum- 
mond. He decided therefore to apply his re-enforcements 
to the support of Riall directly, and to have the eDterprise 
from Niagara proceed with somewhat smaller numbers 
towards Lewiston, — opposite Queenston, — where a body 
of Americans were posted. This advance appears to have 
been detected very soon, for Drummond writes, " Some 
unavoidable delay having occurred in the march of the 
troops up the right bank, the enemy had moved off pre- 
vious to Colonel Tucker's arrival." Brown, in his report 
of this circumstance, wrote, " As it appeared that the enemy 
with his increased force was about to avail himself of the 
hazard under which our baggage and stores were on our 
[American] side of Niagara, I conceived the most effect- 
ual method of recalling him from the object was to put 
myself in motion towards Queenston. General Scott with 
his brigade were accordingly put in march on the road 
leading thither." The result was the battle of Lundy's 

Scott in his autobiography attributes the report of an 
advance towards Schlosser to a mistake on the part of the 
officer making it. It was not so. There was an actual 
movement, modified in detail from the original elaborate 
plan, the execution of which was based by the British gen- 
eral upon the local control of the lake, enabling him to 
send re-enforcements. The employment of Dobbs' four 
vessels, permitted by Chauncey's inaction, thus had direct 
effect upon the occurrence and the result of the desperately 
contested engagement which ensued, upon the heights 
overlooking the lower torrent of the Niagara. From the 
Chippewa to the Falls is about two miles, through which 
the main road from Lake Erie to Ontario follows the curv- 
ing west bank of the stream. A half mile further on it 

310 THE WAR OF 1812 

was joined at right angles by the crossroad, known as 
Lundy's Lane. As Scott's column turned the bend above 
the Falls there were evidences of the enemy's presence, 
which at first were thought to indicate only a detachment 
for observation ; but a few more paces disclosed the Lane 
held by a Une of troops, superior in number to those en- 
countered with equal unexpectedness on the Chippewa, 
three weeks before. 

Scott hesitated whether to fall back; but apprehensive 
of the effect of such a step upon the other divisions, he 
sent word to Brown that he would hold his ground, and 
prepared for battle, making dispositions to turn the ene- 
my's left, — towards the Niagara. It was then near sun- 
down. A hot engagement followed, in the course of which 
the pressure on the British left caused it to give ground. 
In consequeace, the American right advancing and the 
British left receding, the two lines swung round perpen- 
dicular to the Lane, the Americans standing with their 
backs to the precipices, beneath which roar the lower 
rapids of Niagara. At this period General Riall, who had 
received a severe wound, was captured while being carried 
to the rear. 

As this change of front was taking place Brown 
arrived, with Ripley's brigade and Porter's militia, which 
were brought into line with Scott; the latter occupying 
the extreme right, Ripley the centre, and Porter the left. 
When this arrangement had been completed the attack was 
resumed, and a hill top, which was the key of the British 
position, was carried; the artillery there falling into the 
hands of the Americans. "In so determined a manner 
were these attacks directed against our guns," reported 
Drummond, " that our artillery men were bayoneted by the 
enemy in the act of loading, and the muzzles of the enemy's 
guns were advanced within a few yards of ours. ... Our 
troops having for a moment been pushed back, some of our 


guns remained for a few minutes in the enemy's hands." ^ 
Upon this central fact both accounts agree, but on the up- 
shot of the matter they differ. " Not only were the guns 
quickly recovered," continued Drummond, "but the two 
pieces which the enemy had brought up were captured by 
us." He admits, however, the loss as well as gain of one 
6-pounder, Brown, on the contrary, claimed that the 
ground was held and that the enemy retired, leaving his 
guns. " He attempted to drive us from our position and 
to regain his artillery; our line was unshaken and the 
enemy repulsed. Two other attempts having the same 
object had the same issue." ^ By this time both Brown 
and Scott had been severely wounded and carried off the 
field. In this situation the Commander-in-Chief directed 
the officer now in command to withdraw the troops to the 
camp, three miles behind, for refreshment, and then to re- 
occupy the field of battle. Whether this was feasible or 
not would require an inquiry more elaborate than the 
matter at stake demands. It is certain that the next day 
the British resumed the position without resistance, and 
continued to hold it. 

To Americans the real interest and value of this action, 
combined with its predecessor at Chippewa, and with the 
subsequent equally desperate fighting about Fort Erie, 
were that the contest did not close without this conspic- 
uous demonstration that in capable hands the raw material 
of the American armies could be worked up into fighting 
quality equal to the best. Regarded as an international 
conflict, the war was now staggering to its end, whicli was 
but a few months distant; and in every direction httle 
but shame and mortification had befallen the American 
arms on land. It would have been a calamity, indeed, had 
the record closed for that generation with the showing of 

1 Drummond's Report of the Engagement, July 27. CniikshaDk, pp. 87-92. 
* Brown's Report. Ibid., p. 99. 

312 THE WAR OF 1812 

1812 and 1813. Nothing is gained by explaining or excus- 
ing such results; the only expiation for them is by the 
demonstration of repentance, in works worthy of men and 
soldiers. This was abundantly afforded by Brown's brief 
campaign of 1814, otherwise fruitless. Not only the reg- 
ular troops, fashioned by Scott in a few brief months from 
raw recruits to disciplined fighters, proved their mettle ; 
the irregulars associated with them, though without the 
same advantage of training and concert of movement, 
caught their enthusiasm, gained confidence from their 
example, and emulated their deeds. The rabble which 
scarcely waited for a shot before scattering at the approach 
of Riall's columns in December, 1813, abandoning their 
homes to destruction, had earned the discriminating eulo- 
gium of General Brown before the year 1814 closed. In 
August, after Lundy's Lane, he, a New Yorker himself, 
wrote to the Governor of New York:^ "This state has 
suffered in reputation in this war; its militia have done 
nothing, or but little, and that, too, after the state had 
been for a long time invaded." On September 20, after 
the sanguinary and successful sortie from Fort Erie, he 
wrote again : " The militia of New York have redeemed 
their character — they behaved gallantly. Of those called 
out by the last requisition, fifteen hundred have crossed 
the state border to our support. This re-enforcement 
has been of immense importance to us ; it doubled our 
effective strength, and their good conduct cannot but 
have the happiest effect upon the nation." ^ 

The American losses at Lundy's Lane were, killed one 
Imndred and seventy-one, wounded five hundred and 
seventy-two, missing one hundred and seventeen; total, 
eight hundred and sixty. Those of the British were, killed 
eighty-four, wounded five hundred and fifty-nine, missing 

1 Brown to Governor Tompkins, Aug. 1, 1814. Cruikshank, p. 103, 

2 Ibid., p. 207. 


one hundred and ninety-three, prisoners forty-two; total, 
eight hundred and seventy-eight. Of the British missing 
and prisoners, one hundred and sixty-nine were reported by 
the Americans as in their hands ; among them nineteen offi- 
cers. This substantial equaUty in casualties corresponds to 
a similar equality in the numbers engaged. The Americans 
had present for duty two thousand six hundred and forty- 
four, including over four hundred militia; Drummond in 
his report states that first and last he had upon the field 
not more than two thousand eight hundred. That he 
estimates the force opposed to him to have been at least 
five thousand, may be coupled with his mention of " the 
reiterated and determined attacks which the enemy made 
upon our centre," as showing the impression produced 
upon his mind during the progress of the struggle. The 
comparison of numbers engaged with injuries sustained 
justifies the inference that, in result, the actual contest 
upon the ground was at least a drawn battle, if not the 
positive success claimed by Brown and Scott. Colonel 
Hercules Scott, of the British 103d Regiment, who to 
be sure shows somewhat of the malcontent ever present 
in camps, but who afterwards fell well at the front in 
the assault upon Fort Erie, was in this action ; and in a 
private letter uses an expression which practically cor- 
roborates the American assertion that they held the ground 
at the end, and withdrew afterwards. " In the last attack 
they gained possession of five out of seven of our guns, 
but the fire kept upon them was so severe that it after- 
wards appeared they had not been able to carry them 
off ; for we found them next morning on the spot they had 
been taken. No [We ?] boast of a ' Great Victory,' but in 
my opinion it was nearly equal on both sides." ^ 

Equality of loss, or even a technical victory, does not 
imply equality of subsequent conditions. Bro\NTi had at 

* Cmikshank's Docamentary History, 1814, p. 131. Aathor's italics. 

314 THE WAR OF 1812 

the front all his available force ; he had no reserves or 
depots upon which to draw. He had expended the last 
shot in the locker. Drummond not only had been receiv- 
ing re-enforcements, absolutely small, yet considerable in 
proportion to the contending numbers, but he was con- 
tinuing to receive them. Lundy's Lane was July 25 ; 
Chauncey did not take the lake until August 1, and it 
was the 5th when he came ojff Niagara, where he at once 
intercepted and drove ashore one of the British brigs, which 
was fired by her captain. He thus had immediate ocular 
demonstration of what had been going on in his absence ; 
but it was already too late for the American squadron 
to turn the scales of war. If this could have been ac- 
complished at all, it would have been by such inter- 
vention as in this instance ; by injuring the enemy rather 
than by helping the friend. But this would have been 
possible only in the beginning. Brown felt himself unable 
longer to keep the field; and the army, now under General 
Ripley, withdrew the following day, July 26, to Fort Erie, 
where it proceeded to strengthen the work itself, and to 
develop a fortified line depending upon it, covering the 
angle of ground made by the shores of the Niagara River 
and Lake Erie. Brown was carried to Buffalo to recover of 
his wounds, which were not dangerous, though severe. He 
subsequently resumed chief command, but Scott was unable 
to serve again during the campaign. General Gaines was 
summoned from Sackett's Harbor, and on August 5 took 
charge at Fort Erie. 

From this time the operations on either side were limited 
to the effort to take or to hold this position. Drummond's 
experience at Lundy's Lane, and the extent of his loss, 
made him cautious in pursuit; and time was yielded to 
the enemy to make good their entrenchment. On the 
early morning of August 15 the British assaulted, and were 
repelled with fifty-seven killed, three hundred and nine 


wounded, and five hundred and thirty-nine missing.^ The 
Americans, covered by their works, reported a loss of less 
than one hundred. " I am now reduced to a most unpleas- 
ant pi'edicament with regard to force," wrote Drummond 
to Prevost.2 " I have ordered the 6th and 82d from York 
to this frontier. I had intended to order another regiment 
from Kingston, but from the badness of the roads since the 
recent rains I could not calcidate upon their arrival here 
before our squadron will be able to take the lake, and as 
even at present the diminution of stores and provisions is 
beginning to be felt, I intreat your excellency will impress 
upon the Commodore the necessity of conveying to this 
division, the very moment the squadron can leave har- 
bor, a full supply of each, as well as a re-enforcement of 

After this sharp reverse Drummond settled down to 
a siege, in the course of which he complained frequently 
and grievously of the annoyance caused him by Chauncey's 
blockade, established August 6, with three vessels com- 
petent seriously to interrupt transportation of supplies, or 
of men in large detachments. The season was still propi- 
tious for marching ; but as early as August 21 Drummond 
was afraid " that relief by control of the lake may not reach 
us in time." September 11, "Our batteries have almost 
been silent for several days from the reduced state of the 
ammunition." September 14, "The sudden and most un- 
locked for return to the head of Lake Ontario of the two 
brigs, by which the Niagara has been so long blockaded, 
und my communication with York cut off, has had the effect 
of preventing the junction of the 97th regiment, which ar- 
rived at York^the 10th, and probably would have been 

i The American account of this total is: killed, left on the field, 222; 
•wounded, left on the field, 174 ; prisoners, 186. Total, 582. 

Two hundred supposed to be killed on the left flank (in the water) and per- 
mitted to float down the Niagara. 

* Aug. 16. Cruikshauk, pp. 146-147. 

316 THE WAR OF 1812 

here the following day but for this unlucky circumstance." ^ 
September 24, " The deficiency'of provisions and transport 
is the difficulty attending every operation in this country, 
as it prevents the collection at any one point of an ade- 
quate force for any object. These difficulties we must 
continue to experience, until our squadron appears superior 
on the lake." It would be impossible to depict more 
strongly the course incumbent upon Chauncey in July, or 
to condemn more severely, by implication, his failure then 
to do what he could, taking the chance of that chapter of 
accidents, "to be in the way of good luck," which it is 
the duty of every military leader to consider as among the 
clear possibilities of war. "The blockade of Kingston," 
wrote Prevost on October 11 to Lord Bathurst,^ "has 
been vigorously maintained for the last six weeks by the 
enemy's squadron. The vigilance of the American cruis- 
ers on Lake Ontario was felt even by our batteaux 
creeping along the shore with provisions for Drum- 
mond's division. In consequence, I found that the 
wants of that army had grown to an alarming extent."^ 
In pushing his siege works, Drummond by Septem- 
ber 15 had erected three batteries, the last of which, 
then just completed, "would rake obliquely the whole 
American encampment." * Brown determined then upon 
a sortie in force, which was made on the afternoon of 
September 17, with entire success. It was in this attack 
that the New York militia, of whom fifteen hundred had 
crossed to the fort, bore an honorable and distinguished 
part. Brown states the actual force engaged in the fight- 
ing at one thousand regulars and one thousand militia, to 
whose energy and stubbornness Drummond again pays the 
compliment of estimating them at five thousand. The 

1 Cruikshank's Documentary History, 1814, pp. 199, 200. Author's italics, 

2 Bathurst was Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. 
8 Cruikshank's Documentary History, 1814, pp. 229, 245. 

* Ibid., p. 207. Brown to Tompkins. Sept. 20, 1814. 


weight of the onslaught was thrown on the Biitish right 
flank, and there doubtless the assailants were, and should 
have been, greatly superior. Two of the three batteries 
were carried, one of them being that which had directly 
incited the attack. "The enemy," reported Drummond, 
"was everywhere driven back; not however before he 
had disabled the guns in No. 3 batterj-, and exploded its 
magazine ; " ^ that is, not before he had accomplished his 

Nor was this all. The stroke ended the campaign. 
Drummond had nearly lost hope of a successful issue, and 
this blow destroyed what little remained. The American 
navy still held the lake; the big ship in Kingston still 
tarried ; rains torrential and almost incessant were under- 
mining the ramparts of Forts George and Niagara, causing 
serious alarm for the defence, and spreading sickness 
among his troops, re-enforcements to which could with dif- 
ficulty be sent. The British returns of loss in repelling 
the sortie gave one hundred and fifteen killed, one hun- 
dred and forty-eight wounded, three hundred and sixteen 
missing ; total, five hundred and seventy-nine. The Amer- 
icans, whose casualties were five hundred and eleven, 
reported that they brought back three hundred and eighty- 
five prisoners; among whom the roll of officers tallies 
with the British list. Four days afterwards, Septem- 
ber 21, Drummond abandoned his works, leaving his fires 
burning and huts standing, and fell back secretly by 
night to the Chippewa. 

Brown was in no condition to follow. In a brief 
ten weeks, over which his adventurous enterprise spread, 
he had fought four engagements, which might prop- 
erly be called general actions, if regard were had to 
the total force at his disposal, and not merely to the tiny 
scale of the campaign. Barring the single episode of the 

^ Craiksbauk's Documentary History, p. 205. 

318 THE WAR OF 1812 

battle of New Orleans, his career on the Niagara penin- 
sula is the one operation of the land war of 1812 upon 
which thoughtful and understanding Americans of the 
following generation could look back with satisfaction. 
Of how great consequence this evidence of national mili- 
tary character was, to the men who had no other experience, 
is difficult to be appreciated by us, in whose memories are 
the successes of the Mexican contest and the fierce titanic 
strife of the Civil War. In truth, Chippewa, Lundy's 
Lane, and New Orleans, are the only names of 1812 pre- 
served to popular memor)^,^ ever impatient of disagreeable 
reminiscence. Hull's surrender was indeed an exception ; 
the iron there burned too deep to leave no lasting scar. 
To Brown and his distinguished subordinates we owe the 
demonstration of what the War of 1812 might have ac- 
complished, had the Government of the United States 
since the beginning of the century possessed even a rudi- 
mentary conception of what military preparation means to 
practical statesmanship. 

Shortly after the sortie which decided Drummond to 
retire, the defenders of Fort Erie were brought into im- 
mediate relation with the major part of the forces upon 
Lake Champlain, under General Izard. Both belonged 
to the same district, the ninth, which in Dearborn's time 
had formed one general command; but which it now 

1 An interesting indication of popular appreciation is found in the fact 
that two ships of the line laid down by Chauncey in or near Sackett's Har- 
bor, in the winter of 1814-15, were named the "New Orleans" and the 
" Chippewa." Yeo after the peace returned to England by way of Sackett's 
and New York, and was then greatly surprised at the rapidity with which 
these two vessels, which he took to be of one hundred and twenty guns each, 
(Canadian Archives, M. 389.6, p. 310), had been run up, to meet his " St. Law- 
rence " in the spring, had the war continued. The " New Orleans " remained 
on the Navy List, as a seventy-four, "on the stocks," until 1882, when she 
was sold. For years she was the exception to a rule that ships of her class 
should bear the name of a state of the Union. The other square-rigged ves- 
sels on Ontario were sold, in May, 182,5. (Records of the Bureau of Con- 
struction and Repair, Navy Department.) 


pleased the Secretary of War, General Armstrong, to 
manage as two distinct divisions, under his own control- 
ling directions from Washingtx)n. The Secretary un- 
doubtedly had a creditable amount of acquired military 
knowledge, but by this time he had manifested that he 
did not possess the steadying military qualities necessary 
to play the role of a distant commander-in-chief. Izard, at 
the time of his appointment, reported everything connected 
with his command, the numbers and discipline of the 
troops, their clothing and equipment, in a deplorable state 
of ineflSciency.^ The summer months were spent in build- 
ing up anew the army on Champlain, and in erecting forti- 
fications ; at Plattsburg, where the main station was fixed, 
and at Cumberland Head, the promontory which defines 
the eastern side of Plattsburg Bay. Upon the maintenance 
of these positions depended the tenure of the place itself, 
as the most suitable advanced base for the army and for 
the fleet, mutually indispensable for the protection of 
that great line of operations. 

On July 27, before the Secretary could know of Lundy's 
Lane, but when he did anticipate that Brown must fall 
back on Fort Erie, he wrote to Izard that it would be ex- 
pedient for him to advance against Montreal, or against 
Prescott, — on the St. Lawrence opposite Ogdensburg, — 
in case large re-enforcements had been sent from Montreal 
to check Brown's advance, as was reported. His own 
inclination pointed to Prescott, with a view to the con- 
tingent chance of an attack upon Kingston, in co-opera- 
tion with Chauncey and the garrison at Sackett's.^ This 
letter did not reach Izard till August 10. He construed 
its somewhat tentative and vacillating terms as an order. 
" I will make the movement you direct, if possible ; but I 

1 Izard to Secretary of War, May 7, 1814. Official Correspondence of the 
Department of War with Major-General Izard, 1814 and 1815. 
^ Izard Correspondence, p. 64. 

320 THE WAR OF 1812 

shall do it with the apprehension of risking the force under 
my command, and with the certainty that everything in 
this vicinity, save the lately erected works at Plattsburg 
and Cumberland Head, will, in less than three days after 
my departure, be in possession of the enemy." ^ Izard, 
himself, on July 1 9, had favored a step like this proposed ; 
but, as he correctly observed, the time for it was when 
Brown was advancing and might be helped. Now, when 
Brown had been brought to a stand, and was retiring, the 
movement would not aid him, but would weaken the 
Champlain frontier; and that at the very moment when 
the divisions from Wellington's army, which had embarked 
at Bordeaux, were arriving at Quebec and Montreal. 

On August 12, Armstrong wrote again, saying that 
his first order had been based upon the supposition that 
Chauncey would meet and beat Yeo, or at least confine 
him in port. This last had in fact been done; but, if 
the enemy should have carried his force from Montreal 
to Kingston, and be prepared there, "a safer movement 
was to march two thousand men to Sackett's, embark 
there, and go to Brown's assistance." ^ Izard obedi- 
ently undertook this new disposition, which he received 
August 20; but upon consultation with his officers con- 
cluded that to march by the northern route, near the 
Canada border, would expose his necessarily long column 
to dangerous flank attack. He therefore determined to 
go by way of Utica.^ On August 29 the division, about 
four thousand effectives, set out from the camp at Chazy, 
eight miles north of Plattsburg, and on September 16 
reached Sackett's. Bad weather prevented immediate 
embarkation, but on the 21st about two thousand five 
hundred infantry sailed, and having a fair wind reached 
next day the Genesee, where they were instantly put 

1 Izard Correspondence, p. 65. 

2 Ibid., p. 69. 8 Ibid., p. 63. 


ashore. A regiment of light artillery and a number of 
dragoons, beyond the capacity of the fleet to carry, went 
by land and arrived a week later. 

In this manner the defence of Lake Champlain was de- 
prived of four thousand fairly trained troops at the mo- 
ment that the British attack in vast superiority of force 
was maturing. Their advance brigade, in fact, crossed 
the frontier two days after Izard's departure. At the 
critical moment, and during the last weeks of weather 
favorable for operations, the men thus taken were em- 
ployed in making an unprofitable march of great length, 
to a quarter where there was now little prospect of suc- 
cessful action, and where they could not arrive before the 
season should be practically closed. Brown, of course, 
hailed an accession of strength which he sorely needed, 
and did not narrowly scrutinize a measure for which he 
was not responsible. On September 27, ten days after the 
successful sortie from Fort Erie, he was at Batavia, in 
New York, where he had an interview with Izard, who 
was the senior. In consequence of their consultation 
Izard determined that his first movement should be the 
siege of Fort Niagara. ^ In pursuance of this resolve 
his army marched to Lewiston, where it arrived Octo- 
ber 5. There he had a second meeting with Brown, 
accompanied on this occasion by Porter, and under their 
representations decided that it would be more proper to 
concentrate all the forces at hand on the Canadian bank 
of the Niagara, south of the Chippewa, and not to under- 
take a siege while Drummond kept the field. ^ 

Despite many embarrassments, and anxieties on the 
score of supplies and provisions while deprived of the 
free use of the lake, the British general was now master 
of the situation. His position rested upon the Chippewa 
on one flank, and upon Fort Niagara on the other. From 

1 Izard Correspondence, p. 93. 2 ii,i(j.^ p, gg. 

VOL. II. — 21 

322 THE WAR OF 1812 

end to end he had secure communication, for he possessed 
the river and the boats, below the falls. By these interior 
lines, despite his momentary inferiority in total numbers, 
he was able to concentrate his forces upon a threatened 
extremity with a rapidity which the assailants could not 
hope to rival. Fort Niagara was not in a satisfactory 
condition to resist battery by heavy cannon; but Izard 
had none immediately at hand. Drummond was there- 
fore justified in his hope that "the enemy will find the 
recapture of the place not to be easily effected. "^ His 
line of the Chippewa rested on the left upon the Niagara. 
On its right flank the ground was impassable to every- 
thing save infantry, and any effort to turn his position 
there would have to be made in the face of artillery, to 
oppose which no guns could be brought forward. Accord- 
ingly when Izard, after crossing in accordance with his 
last decision, advanced on October 15 against the British 
works upon the Chippewa, he found they were too strong 
for a frontal attack, the opinion which Drummond himself 
entertained, 2 while the topographical difficulties of the 
country baffled every attempt to turn them. Drummond 's 
one serious fear was that the Americans, finding him im- 
pregnable here, might carry a force by Lake Erie, and try 
to gain his rear from Long Point, or by the Grand River.^ 
Though they would meet many obstacles in such a circuit, 
yet the extent to which he would have to detach in order 
to meet them, and the smallness of his numbers, might 
prove very embarrassing. 

Izard entertained no such project. After his demonstra- 
tion of October 15, which amounted to little more than 
a reconnaisance in force, he lapsed into hopelessness. 
The following day he learned by express that the Ameri- 

1 Oct. 6, 1814. Cruikshank's Documentary History, 1814, p. 240. 

2 Izard Correspondence, p. 102 ; Cruikshank, p. 242. 
* Cruikshank, p. 240. 


can squadron had retired to Sackett's Harbor and was 
throwing up defensive works. With his own eyes he 
saw, too, that the British water service was not impeded. 
" Notwithstanding our supremacy on Lake Ontario, at the 
time I was in Lewiston [October 5-8] the communication 
between York and the mouth of the Niagara was uninter- 
rupted. I saw a large square-rigged vessel arri\'ing, and 
another, a brig, lying close to the Canada shore. Not 
a vessel of ours was in sight. " ^ The British big ship, 
launched September 10, was on October 14 reported by 
Yeo completely equipped. The next day he would pro- 
ceed up the lake to Drummond's relief. Chauncey had 
not waited for the enemy to come out. Convinced that 
the first use of naval superiority would be to reduce his 
naval base, he took his ships into port October 8; writ- 
ing to Washington that the " St. Lawrence " had her sails 
bent, apparently all ready for sea, and that he expected 
an attack in ten days.^ " I confess I am greatly embar- 
rassed," wrote Izard to Monroe, who had now superseded 
Armstrong as Secretary of War. "At the head of the 
most efficient army the United States have possessed dur- 
ing this war, much must be expected from me ; and yet I 
can discern no object which can be achieved at this point 
worthy of the risk which will attend its attempt." The 
enemy perfectly understood his perplexity, and despite 
his provocations refused to play into his hands by leaving 
the shelter of their works to fight. On October 21, he 
broke up his camp, and began to prepare winter quarters 
for his own command opposite Black Rock, sending Brown 
with his division to Sackett's Harbor. Two weeks later, 
on November 5, having already transported all but a small 
garrison to the American shore, he blew up Fort Erie and 
abandoned his last foothold on the peninsula. 

1 Izard Correspondence, p. 103. 
^ Captains' Letters. 

324 THE WAR OF 1812 

During the operations along the Niagara which ended 
thus fruitlessly, the United States Navy upon Lake Erie 
met with some severe mishaps. The Cabinet purpose, of 
carrying an expedition into the upper lakes against Michili- 
mackinac, was persisted in despite the reluctance of Arm- 
strong. Commander Arthur Sinclair, who after an interval 
had succeeded Perry, was instructed to undertake this 
enterprise with such force as might be necessary; but 
to leave within Lake Erie all that he could spare, to 
co-operate with Brown. Accordingly he sailed from Erie 
early in June, arriving on the 21st off Detroit, where 
he was to embark the troops under Colonel Croghan for 
the land operations. After various delays St. Joseph's 
was reached July 20, and found abandoned. Its de- 
fences were destroyed. On the 26th the vessels were 
before Mackinac, but after a reconnaisance Croghan de- 
cided that the position was too strong for the force he 
had. Sinclair therefore started to return, having so far 
accomplished little except the destruction of two schooners, 
one on Lake Huron, and one on Lake Superior, both es- 
sential to the garrison at Mackinac; there being at the 
time but one other vessel on the lakes competent to the 
maintenance of their communications. 

This remaining schooner, called the "Nancy," was 
known to be in Nottawasaga Bay, at the south end of 
Georgian Bay, near the position selected by the British as 
a depot for stores coming from York by way of Lake 
Simcoe. After much dangerous search in uncharted waters, 
Sinclair found her lying two miles up a river of the same 
name as the bay, where she was watching a chance to slip 
through to Mackinac. Her lading had been completed 
July 31, and the next day she had already started, when 
a messenger brought word that approach to the island was 
blocked by the American expedition. The winding of 
the rivei* placed her present anchorage within gunshot of 


the lake ; but as she could not be seen through the brush, 
Sinclair borrowed from the army a howitzer, with which, 
mounted in the open beyond, he succeeded in firing both 
the " Nancy " and the blockhouse defending the position. 
The British were thus deprived of their last resource for 
transportation in bulk upon the lake. What this meant 
to Mackinac may be inferred from the fact that flour 
there was sixty dollars the barrel, even before Sinclair's 

Having inflicted this small, yet decisive, embarrassment 
on the enemy, Sinclair on August 16 started back with the 
** Niagara " and " Hunter " for Erie, whither he had al- 
ready despatched the " Lawrence " — Perry's old flagship 
— and the "Caledonia." He left in Nottawasaga Bay 
the schooners "Scorpion" and "Tigress," "to maintain a 
rigid blockade until driven from the lake by the inclem- 
ency of the weather," in order "to cut the line of com- 
munications from Michilimackinac to York." Lieutenant 
Daniel Turner of the "Scorpion," who had commanded 
the " Caledonia " in Perry's action, was the senior officer 
of this detachment. 

After Sinclair's departure the gales became frequent 
and violent. Finding no good anchorage in Nottawasaga 
Bay, Turner thought he could better fulfil the purpose of 
his instructions by taking the schooners to St. Joseph's, 
and cruising thence to French River, which enters Geor- 
gian Bay at its northern end. On the night of Septem- 
ber 3, the " Scorpion " being then absent at the river, 
the late commander of the "Nancy," Lieutenant Miller 
Worsley, got together a boat's crew of eighteen seamen, 
and obtained the co-operation of a detachment of seventy 
soldiers. With these, followed by a number of Indians 
in canoes, he attacked the " Tigress " at her anchors and 
carried her by boarding. The night being very dark, the 
British were close alongside when first seen; and the 

326 THE WAR OF 1812 

vessel was not provided with boarding nettings, which 
her commander at his trial proved he had not the cordage 
to make. Deprived of this essential defence, which in 
such an exposed situation corresponds to a line of in- 
trenched works on shore, her crew of thirty men were 
readily overpowered by the superior numbers, who could 
come upon them from four quarters at once, and had but 
an easy step to her low-lying rail. The officer command- 
ing the British troops made a separate report of the affair, 
in which he said that her resistance did credit to her ofifi- 
cers, who were all severely wounded.^ Transferring his 
men to the prize, Worsley waited for the return of the 
"Scorpion," which on the 5th anchored about five miles 
off, ignorant of what had happened. The now British 
schooner weighed and ran down to her, showing American 
colors; and, getting thus alongside without being sus- 
pected, mastered her also. Besides the officers hurt, 
there were of the "Tigress' " crew three killed and 
three wounded; the British having two killed and eight 
wounded. No loss seems to have been incurred on either 
side in the capture of the "Scorpion." In reporting this 
affair Sir James Yeo wrote : " The importance of this ser- 
vice is very great. Had not the naval force of the enemy 
been taken, the commanding officer at Mackinac must have 
surrendered." ^ He valued it further for its influence upon 
the Indians, and upon the future of the naval establishment 
which he had in contemplation for the upper lakes. 

When Sinclair reached Detroit from Nottawasaga he 
received news of other disasters. According to his in- 
structions, before starting for the upper lakes he had left a 
division of his smaller vessels, under Lieutenant Kennedy, 
to support the army at Niagara. When Brown fell back 
upon Fort Erie, after Lundy's Lane, three of these, the 

1 Canadian Archives, C. 685, pp. 172-174. ■■- 

2 Ibid., M. 389.6, p. 222. 


"Ohio," "Somei-s," and " Porcupine, " anchored close by 
the shore, in such a position as to flank the approaches 
to the fort, and to molest the breaching battery which the 
British were erecting. As this interfered with the be- 
siegers' plans for an assault. Captain Dobbs, commanding 
the naval detachment on Ontario which Yeo had assigned 
to co-operate with Drummond, transported over land from 
below the falls six boats or batteaux, and on the night of 
August 12 attacked the American schooners, as Worsley 
afterwards did the "Tigress" and "Scorpion." The 
"Ohio" and "Somers," each with a crew of thirty-five 
men, were carried and brought successfully down the 
river within the British lines. Dobbs attributed the es- 
cape of the " Porcupine " to the cables of the two others 
being cut, in consequence of which they with the victo- 
rious assailants on board drifted beyond possibility of 
return.^ To these four captures by the enemy must be 
added the loss by accident of the " Caledonia " ^ and 
"Ariel," reported by Sinclair about this time. Perry's 
fleet was thus disappearing by driblets ; but the command 
of the lake was not yet endangered, for there still re- 
mained, besides several of the prizes, the two principal 
vessels, "Lawrence " and " Niagara. "^ 

With these Sinclair returned to the east of the lake, 
and endeavored to give support to the army at Fort Erie ; 
but the violence of the weather and the insecurity of the 
anchorage on both shores, as the autumn drew on, not only 
prevented effectual co-operation, but seriously threatened 
the very existence of the fleet, upon which control of the 
water depended. In an attempt to go to Detroit for re- 

1 The Reports of Captain Dobbs and the American lientenant, Conkling, 
are in Crnikshank's Docaraentarv History, p. 135. 

2 Captains' Letters, Sept. 12, 1814. 

' This account of uaval events on the upper lakes in 1814 has been sum- 
marized from Sinclair's despatches. Captains' Letters, May 2 to Nov. 1 1, 1814, 
^ and from certain captured British letters, which, with several of Sinclair's, 
were published in Xiles' Register, vol. vii. and Supplement. 

328 THE WAR OF 1812 

enforcements for Brown, a gale of wind was encountered 
which drifted the vessels back to Buffalo, where they 
had to anchor and lie close to a lee shore for two days, 
September 18 to 20, with topmasts and lower yards down, 
the sea breaking over them, and their cables chafing 
asunder on a rocky bottom. After this, Drummond hav- 
ing raised the siege of Fort Erie, the fleet retired to 
Erie and was laid up for the winter. 



THE British command of the water on Lake 
Ontario was obtained too late in the year 1814 
to have any decisive effect upon their opera- 
tions. Combined with their continued power- 
lessness on Lake Erie, this caused their campaign upon the 
northern frontier to be throughout defensive in character, 
as that of the Americans had been offensive. Drummond 
made no attempt in the winter to repeat the foray into 
New York of the previous December, although he and Pre- 
vost both considered that they had received provocation to 
retaliate, similar to that given at Newark the year before. 
The infliction of such vindictive punishment was by them 
thrown upon Warren's successor in the North AtlanUc 
command, who responded in word and will even more 
heartily than in deed. The Champlain expedition, in Sep- 
tember of this year, had indeed offensive purpose, but even 
there the object specified was the protection of Canada, by 
the destruction of the American naval establishments on 
the lake, as well as at Sackett's Harbor ; * while the rapidity 
^vith which Prevost retreated, as soon as the British squad- 
ron was destroyed, demonstrated how profoundly otherwise 
the spirit of a simple defensive had possession of him, as 
it had also of the more positive and aggressive tempera- 

1 " Some Account of the Life of Sir George Prevost." London, 1823, pp. 
1%, 137. The author has not been able to find the despatch of June 3, 1814* 
there quoted. 

330 THE WAR OF 1812 

ments of Drummond and Yeo, and how essential naval 
control was in his eyes. In this general view he had the 
endorsement of the Duke of Wellington, when his atten- 
tion was called to the subject, after the event. 

Upon the seaboard it was otherwise. There the British 
campaign of 1814 much exceeded that of 1813 in offensive 
purpose and vigor, and in effect. This was due in part to 
the change in the naval commander-in-chief ; in part also 
to the re-enforcements of troops which the end of the 
European war enabled the British Government to send to 
America. Early in the year 181 3, Warren had represented 
to the Admiralty the impossibility of his giving personal 
supervision to the management of the West India stations, 
and had suggested devolving the responsibility upon the 
local admirals, leaving him simply the power to interfere 
when circumstances demanded.^ The Admiralty then 
declined, alleging that the character of the war required 
unity of direction over the whole.^ Later they changed 
their views. The North Atlantic, Jamaica, and Leeward 
Islands stations were made again severally independent, 
and Warren was notified that as the American command, 
thus reduced, was beneath the claims of an officer of his 
rank, — a full admiral, — a successor would be appointed.^ 
Vice- Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane accordingly relieved 
him, April 1, 1814 ; his charge embracing both the Atlantic 
and Gulf coasts. At the same period the Lakes Station, 
from Champlain to Superior inclusive, was constituted a 
separate command ; Yeo's orders to this effect being dated 
the same day as Cochrane's, January 25, 1814. 

Cochrane brought to his duties a certain acrimony of 
feeling, amounting almost to virulence. " I have it much 
at heart," he wrote Bathurst, " to give them a complete 

1 Warren to Croker, Feb. 26, 1813. Admiralty In-Letters MSS. 

2 Croker to Warreu, March 20, 1813. Admiralty Out-Letters. 
« Warren to Croker, Jan. 28, 1814. Canadian Archives MSS. 


drubbing before peace is made, when I trust their northern 
limits will be circumscribed and the command of the Mis- 
sissippi wrested from them." He expects thousands of 
slaves to join with their masters' horses, and looks forward 
to enlisting them. They are good horsemen ; and, while 
agreeing with his lordship in deprecating a negro insurrec- 
tion, he thinks such bodies will " be as good Cossacks as 
any in the Russian army, and more terrific to the Americans 
than any troops that can be brought forward." Washing- 
ton and Baltimore are equally accessible, and may be either 
destroyed or laid under contribution.^ These remarks, 
addressed to a prominent member of the Cabinet, are some- 
what illuminative as to the formal purposes, as well as to 
the subsequent action, of British officials. The sea coast 
from Maine to Georgia, according to the season of the year, 
was made to feel the increasing activity and closeness of 
the British attacks ; and these, though discursive and 
without apparent correlation of action, were evidently ani- 
mated throughout by a common intention of bringing the 
war home to the experience of the people. 

As a whole, the principal movements were meant to serve 
as a divei"sion, detaining on the Chesapeake and seaboard 
troops which might otherwise be sent to oppose the advance 
Prevost was ordered to make against Sackett's Harbor and 
Lake Champlain ; for which purpose much the larger part 
of the re-enforcements from Europe had been sent to 
Canada. The instructions to the general detailed to com- 
mand on the Atlantic specified as his object " a diversion 
on the coast of the United States in favor of the army em- 
ployed in the defence of Upper and Lower Canada." ^ 
During the operations, "if in any descent you shall be 
enabled to take such a position as to threaten the inhabit- 

1 Cochrane to Bathurst, July 14, 1814. War Office In-Letters MSS. 

2 Bathurst's Instructions to the officer in command of the troops detached 
from the Gironde. May 20, 1814. From copy sent to Cochrane. Admiralty 
In-Letters, from Secretary of State. 

832 THE WAR OF 1812 

ants with the destruction of their property, you are hereby 
authorized to levy upon them contributions in return for 
your forbearance." Negroes might be enlisted, or carried 
away, though in no case as slaves. Taken in connection 
with the course subsequently pursued at Washington, such 
directions show an aim to inflict in many quarters suffer- 
ing and deprivation, in order to impress popular conscious- 
ness with the sense of an irresistible and ubiquitous power 
incessantly at hand. Such moral impression, inclining 
those subject to it to desire peace, conduced also to the 
retention of local forces in the neighborhood where they 
belonged, and so furthered the intended diversion. 

The general purpose of the British Government is further 
shown by some incidental mention. Gallatin, who at the 
time of Napoleon's abdication was in London, in connection 
with his duties on the Peace Commission, wrote two months 
afterwards : " To use their own language, they mean to in- 
flict on America a chastisement which will teach her that 
war is not to be declared against Great Britain with im- 
punity. This is a very general sentiment of the nation ; 
and that such are the opinions of the ministry was strongly 

impressed on the mind of by a late conversation he 

had with Lord Castlereagh. Admiral Warren also told 
Levett Harris, with whom he was intimate at St. Petersburg, 
that he was sorry to say the instructions given to his suc- 
cessor on the American station were very different from 
those under which he acted, and that he feared very serious- 
injury would be done to America." ^ 

Thus inspired, the coast warfare, although more active 
and efficient than the year before, and on a larger scale, 
continued in spirit and in execution essentially desultory 
and wasting. As it progressed, a peculiar bitterness was 
imparted by the liberal construction given by British officers 

1 Gallatin to Monroe, London, June 13, 1814. Adams' Writings of 
Gallatin, vol, i. p. 627. 


to the word "retaliation." By strict derivation, and in 
wise application, the term summarizes the ancient retribu- 
tion of like for like, — an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth ; 
and to destroy three villages for one, as was done in retort 
for the burning of Xewark, the inhabitants in each case 
being innocent of offence, was an excessive recourse to a 
punitive measure admittedly lawful. Two further instances 
of improper destruction by Americans had occurred during 
the campaign of 1814. Just before Sinclair sailed for 
Mackinac, he suggested to a Colonel Campbell, command- 
ing the troops at Erie, that it would be a useful step to 
visit Long Point, on the opposite Canada shore, and destroy 
there a quantity of flour, and some mills which contributed 
materially to the support of the British forces on the 
Niagara peninsula. ^ This was effectively done, and did 
add seriously to Drummond's embarrassment ; but Campbell 
went further and fired some private houses also, on the 
ground that the owners were British partisans and had had 
a share in the burning of Buffalo. A Court of Inquiry, of 
which General Scott was president, justified the destruction 
of the mills, but condemned unreservedly that of the private 
houses. 2 Again, in Brown's advance upon Chippewa, 
some American " volunteers," despatched to the village of 
St. David's, burned there a number of dwellings. The 
commanding ojB&cer, Colonel Stone, was ordered summarily 
and immediately by Brown to retire from the expedition, 
as responsible for an act "contrary to the orders of the 
Government, and to those of the commanding general pub- 
lished to the army." ^ 

In both these cases disavowal had been immediate ; and 
it had been decisive also in that of Newark. The intent of 
the American Government was clear, and reasonable ulti- 

* Sinclair, Erie, May 13, 1814. Captains' Letters. 

2 Craikshank's Docamentarr History of the Campaign of 1814, p. 18. 

« Ibid., p. 74. 

334 THE WAR OF 1812 

mate compensation might have been awaited ; at least for 
a time. Prevost, however, being confined to the defensive 
all along his lines, communicated the fact of the destruction, 
to Cochrane, calling upon him for the punishment which it 
was not in his own power then to inflict. Cochrane accord- 
ingly issued an order ^ to the ships under his command, to 
use measures of retaliation " against the cities of the United 
States, from the Saint Croix River to the southern bound- 
ary, near the St. Mary's River ; " " to destroy and lay 
waste," so he notified the United States Government, " such 
towns and districts upon the coast as may be found assail- 
able." 2 In the first heat of his wrath, he used in his order 
an expression, " and you will spare merely the lives of the 
unarmed inhabitants of the United States," which he after- 
wards asked Prevost to expunge, as it might be construed 
in a sense he never meant ; ^ and he reported to his Govern- 
ment that he had sent private instructions to exercise for- 
bearance toward the inhabitants.* It can easily be believed 
that, like many words spoken in passion, the phrase far 
outran his purposes ; but it has significance and value as 
indicating the manner in which Americans had come to be 
regarded in Great Britain, through the experience of the 
period of peace and the recent years of war. 

However the British Government might justify in terms 
the impressment of seamen from American ships, or the 
delay of atonement for such an insult as that of the Chesa- 
peake, the nation which endured the same, content with 
reams of argument instead of blow for blow, had sunk be- 
neath contempt as an inferior race, to be cowed and handled 
without gloves by those who felt themselves the masters. 
Nor was the matter bettered by the notorious fact that the 

1 Cruikshank's Documentary History, pp. 414, 415. 

2 American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. pp. 693, 694. 

* Cochrane to Prevost, July 26, 1814. Canadian Archives MSS., C. 684, 
p. 231. 

* Report on Canadian Archives, 1896, p. 54. 


interference with the freedom of American trade, which 
Great Britain herself admitted to be outside the law, had 
been borne unresisted because of the pecuniary stake in- 
volved. The impression thus produced was deepened by 
the confident boasts of immediate successes in Canada, 
made by leading members of the party which brought on 
the war ; followed as these were by a display of inefficiency 
so ludicrous that opponents, as well native as foreign, did 
not hesitate to apply to it the word "imbecility." The 
American for a dozen years had been clubbed without giv- 
ing evidence of rebellion, beyond words; now that he 
showed signs of restiveness, without corresponding evidence 
of power, he should feel the lash, and there need be no 
nicety in measuring punishment. Codrington, an officer of 
mark and character, who joined Cochrane at this time as 
chief of staff, used expressions which doubtless convey the 
average point of \aew of the British officer of that day: 
President Madison, " by letting his generals bum villages 
in Canada again, has been trying to excite terror ; but as 
you may shortly see by the public exposition of the Ad- 
miral's orders, the terror and the suffering will probably be 
brought home to the dooi-s of his own fellow citizens. 
I am fully convinced that this is the true way to end this 
Yankee war, whatever may be said in Parliament 
against it." ^ 

It is the grievous fault of all retaliation, especially in the 
heat of war, that it rarely stays its hand at an equal meas- 
ure, but almost invariably proceeds to an excess which pro- 
vokes the other party to seek in turn to even the scale. 
The process tends to be unending ; and it is to the honor 
of the United States Government that, though technically 
responsible for the acts of agents which it was too ineffi- 
cient to control, it did not seriously entertain the purpose 
of resorting to this means, to vindicate the wrongs of its 

1 Life of Sir Edward Codrington, vol. i. p. 313. 

336 THE WAR OF 1812 

citizens at the expense of the subjects of its opponent. 
Happily, the external brutality of attitude which Coch- 
rane's expression so aptly conveyed yielded for the most 
part to ilobler instincts in the British officers. There was 
indeed much to condemn, much done that ought not to 
have been done ; but even in the contemporary accounts it 
is quite possible to trace a certain rough humanity, a wish 
to deal equitably with individuals, for whom, regarded 
nationally, they professed no respect. Even in the maraud- 
ing of the Chesapeake, the idea of compensation for value 
taken was not lost to view; and in general the usages 
of war, as to property exempt from destruction or appro- 
priation, were respected, although not without the rude 
incidents certain to occur where atonement for acts of 
resistance, or the price paid for property taken, is fixed by 
the victor. 

If retaliation upon any but the immediate culprit is ever 
permissible, which in national matters will scarcely be con- 
tested, it is logically just that it should fall first of all upon 
the capital, where the interests and honor of the nation are 
centred. There, if anywhere, the responsibility for the war 
and all its incidents is concrete in the representatives of 
the nation, executive and legislative, and in the public 
offices from which all overt acts are presumed to emanate. 
So it befell the United States. In the first six months of 
1814, the warfare in the Chesapeake continued on the same 
general lines as in 1813 ; there having been the usual re- 
mission of activity during the winter, to resume again as 
milder weather drew on. The blockade of the bay was 
sustained, with force adequate to make it technically effect- 
ive, although Baltimore boasted that several of her clipper 
schooners got to sea. On the part of the United States, 
Captain Gordon of the navy had been relieved in charge of 
the bay flotilla by Commodore Barney, of revolutionary 
and privateering renown. This local command, in con- 


formity with the precedent at New York, and as was due 
to so distinguished an officer, was made independent of 
other branches of the naval service ; the commodore being 
in immediate communication with the Navy Department. 
On April 17, he left Baltimore and proceeded down the 
bay with thirteen vessels ; ten of them being large barges 
or galleys, propelled chiefly by oars, the others gunboats of 
the ordinary type. The headquarters of this little force 
became the Patuxent River, to which in the sequel it was 
in great measure confined; the superiority of the enemy 
precluding any enlarged sphere of activity. Its presence, 
however, was a provocation to the British, as being the 
only floating force in the bay capable of annoying them ; 
the very existence of which was a challenge to their su- 
premacy. To destroy it became therefore a dominant 
motive, which was utilized also to conceal to the last their 
purpose, tentative indeed throughout, to make a dash at 

The Patuxent enters Chesapeake Bay from the north and 
west, sixty miles below Baltimore, and twenty above the 
mouth of the Potomac, to the general direction of which 
its own course in its lower part is parallel. For boats 
drawing no more than did Barney's it is navigable for forty 
miles from its mouth, to Pig Point ; whence to Washing- 
ton by land is but fifteen miles. A pursuit of the flotilla so 
far therefore brought pursuers within easy striking distance 
of the capital, provided that between them and it stood no 
obstacle adequate to impose delay until resistance could 
gather. It was impossible for such a pursuit to be made 
by the navy alone ; for, inadequate as the militia was to 
the protection of the bay shore from raiding, it was quite 
competent to act in conjunction with Barney, when bat- 
thng only against boats, which alone could follow him 
into lairs accessible to him, but not to even the smaller 
vessels of the enemy. Ships of the largest size could enter 

TOL. n. — 22 

338 THE WAR OF 1812 

the river, but could ascend it only a little way. Up the 
Patuxent itself, or in its tributaries, the Americans there- 
fore had always against the British Navy a refuge, in which 
they might be blockaded indeed, but could not be reached. 
For all these reasons, in order to destroy the flotilla, a body 
of troops must be used ; a necessity which served to mask 
any ulterior design. 

In the course of these operations, and in support of them, 
the British Navy had created a post at Tangier Island, ten 
miles across the bay, opposite the mouth of the Potomac.^ 
Here they threw up fortifications, and established an ad- 
vanced rendezvous. Between the island and the eastern 
shore, Tangier Sound gave sheltered anchorage. The posi- 
tion was in every way convenient, and strategically central. 
Being the junction of the water routes to Baltimore and 
Washington, it threatened both ; while the narrowness of 
the Chesapeake at this point constituted the force there 
assembled an inner blockading line, well situated to move 
rapidly at short notice in any direction, up or down, to 
one side or the other. At such short distance from the 
Patuxent, Barney's movements were of course well under 
observation, as he at once experienced. On June 1, he 
left the river, apparently with a view to reaching the 
Potomac. Two schooners becalmed were then visible, 
and pursuit was made with the oars; but soon a large 
ship was seen under sail, despatching a number of barges 
to their assistance. A breeze springing up from south- 
west put the ship to windward, between the Potomac 
and the flotilla, which was obliged to return to the 
Patuxent, closely followed by the enemy. Some distant 
shots were exchanged, but Barney escaped, and for the 
time was suffered to remain undisturbed three miles from 
the bay ; a 74-gun ship lying at the river's mouth, with 
barges plying continually about her. The departure of 
1 See Map of Chesapeake Bay, ante, p. 156. 


the British schooners, however, was construed to indicate 
a return with re-enforcements for an attack ; an anticipa- 
tion not disappointed. Two more vessels soon joined the 
seventy-four; one of them a brig. On their appearance 
Barney shifted his berth two miles further up, abreast St. 
Leonard's Creek. At dayUght of June* 9, one of the ships, 
the brig, two schooners, and fifteen rowing barges, were 
seen coming up with a fair wind. The flotilla then re- 
treated two miles up the creek, formed there across it 
in line abreast, and awaited attack. The enemy's vessels 
could not follow; but their boats did, and a skirmish 
ensued which ended in the British retiring. Later in the 
day the attempt was renewed with no better success ; and 
Barney claimed that, having followed the boats in their 
retreat, he had seriously disabled one of the large schoon- 
ers anchored off the mouth of the creek to support the 

There is no doubt that the American gunboats were 
manfully and skilfully handled, and that the crews in this 
and subsequent encounters gained confidence and skill, the 
evidences of which were shown afterwards at Bladensburg, 
remaining the only alleviating remembrance from that day 
of disgrace. From Barney would be expected no less than 
the most that man can do, or example effect; but his 
pursuit was stopped by the ship and the brig, which stayed 
within the Patuxent. The flotilla continued inside the 
creek, two frigates lying off its mouth, until June 26, 
when an attack by the boats, in concert with a body of 
militia, — infantry and light artillery, — decided the enemy 
to move down the Patuxent Barney took advantage of 
this to leave the creek and go up the river. We are in- 
formed by a journal of the day that the Government was 
by these affairs well satisfied with the ability of the flotilla 
to restrain the operations of the enemy within the waters 
of the Chesapeake, and had determined on a considerable 

340 THE WAR OF 1812 

increase to it. Nothing seems improbable of that Govern- 
ment ; but, if this be true, it must have been easily satisfied. 
Barney had secured a longer line of retreat, up the river ; 
but the situation was not materially changed. In either 
case, creek or river, there was but one way out, and that 
was closed. He could only abide the time when the enemy 
should see fit to come against him by land and by water, 
which would seal his fate.^ 

On June 2 there had sailed from Bordeaux for America 
a detachment from Wellington's army, twenty-five hundred 
strong, under Major-General Ross, It reached Bermuda 
July 25, and there was re-enforced by another battalion, 
increasing its strength to thirty-four hundred. On August 
3 it left Bermuda, accompanied by several ships of war, and 
on the 15th passed in by the capes of the Chesapeake. 
Admiral Cochrane had preceded it by a few days, and was 
already lying there with his own ship and the division 
under Rear- Admiral Cockburn, who hitherto had been in 
immediate charge of operations in the bay. There were 
now assembled over twenty vessels of war, four of them of 
the line, with a large train of transports and store-ships. 
A battalion of seven hundred marines were next detailed 
for duty with the troops, the landing force being thus raised 
to over four thousand. The rendezvous at Tangier Island 
gave the Americans no certain clue to the ultimate object, 
for the reason already cited ; and Cochrane designedly con- 
tributed to their distraction, by sending one squadron of 
frigates up the Potomac, and another up the Chesapeake 
above Baltimore.^ On August 18 the main body of the 
expedition moved abreast the mouth of the Patuxent, and 
at noon of that day entered the river with a fair wind. 

The purposes at this moment of the commanders of the 

1 This account of Barney's movements is summarized from his letters, and 
others, published in Niles' Register, vol. vi. pp. 244, 268, 300. 

2 Report of Admiral Cochrane, Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxii. p. 342. 


army and navy, acting jointly, are succinctly stated by 
Cochrane in his report to the Admiralty : " Information 
from Rear-Admiral Cockburn that Commodore Barney, 
with the Potomac flotilla, had taken shelter at the head of 
the Patuxent, afforded a pretext for ascending that river to 
attack him near its source, above Pig Point, while the 
ultimate destination of the combined force was Washing- 
ton, should it be found that the attempt might be made 
with any prospect of success."^ August 19, the troops 
were landed at Benedict, twenty-five miles from the mouth 
of the river, and the following day began their upward 
march, flanked by a naval division of light vessels; the 
immediate objective being Barney's flotilla. 

For the defence of the capital of the United States, 
throughout the region by which it might be approached, 
the Government had selected Brigadier-General Winder ; 
the same who the year before had been captured at Stoney 
Creek, on the Niagara frontier, in Vincent's bold night 
attack. He was appointed July 2 to the command of a new 
military district, the tenth, which comprised " the state of 
]\raryland, the District of Columbia, and that part of Vir- 
ginia lying betvveen the Potomac and the Rappahannock ; " ^ 
in brief, Washington and Baltimore, with the ways converg- 
ing upon them from the sea. This was just seven weeks 
before the enemy landed in the Patuxent; time enough, 
with reasonable antecedent preparation, or trained troops, 
to concert adequate resistance, as was shown by the British 
subsequent failure before Baltimore. 

The conditions with which Winder had to contend are 
best stated in the terms of the Court of Inquiry ^ called to 
investigate his conduct, at the head of which sat General 

^ Report of Admiral Cochrane, Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxii. p. 342. 

"^ American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i. p. 524. 

' The finding of the Court of Inquiry was published in Niles' Register for 
Feb. 25, 1815, from the official paper, the National Intelligencer. Niles, voL 
vii. p. 410. 

342 THE WAR OF 1812 

Winfield Scott. After fixing the date of his appointment, 
and ascertaining that he at once took every means in his 
power to put his district in a proper state of defence, the 
court found that on August 24, the day of the battle of 
Bladensburg, he " was enabled by great and unremitting 
exertions to bring into the field about five or six thousand 
men, all of whom except four hundred were militia ; that 
he could not collect more than half his men until a day or 
two previously to the engagement, and six or seven hun- 
dred of them did not arrive until fifteen minutes before its 
commencement; . . . that the officers commanding the 
troops were generally unknown to him, and but a very 
small number of them had enjoyed the benefit of military 
instruction or experience." So far from attributing cen- 
sure, the Court found that, " taking into consideration the 
complicated difficulties and embarrassments under which 
he labored, he is entitled to no little commendation, not- 
withstanding the result; before the action he exhibited 
industry, zeal, and talent, and during its continuance a 
coolness, a promptitude, and a personal valor, highly 
honorable to himself." 

The finding of a court composed of competent experts, 
convened shortly after the events, must be received with 
respect. It is clear, however, that they here do not specify 
the particular professional merits of Winder's conduct of 
operations, but only the general hopelessness of success, 
owing to the antecedent conditions, not of his making, 
under which he was called to act, and which he strenuously 
exerted himself to meet. The blame for a mishap evidently 
and easily preventible still remains, and, though of course 
not expressed by the Court, is necessarily thrown back upon 
the Administration, and upon the party represented by it, 
which had held power for over twelve years past. A hos- 
tile corps of less than five thousand men had penetrated to 
the capital, through a well populated country., which was, 


to quote the Secretary of War, " covered with wood, and 
offering at every step strong positions for defence ; " ^ but 
there were neither defences nor defenders. 

The sequence of events which terminated in this humiliat- 
ing manner is instructive. The Cabinet, which on June 7 
had planned offensive operations in Canada, met on July 1 
in another frame of mind, alarmed by the news from 
Europe, to plan for the defence of Washington and Balti- 
more. It will be remembered that it was now two years 
since war had been declared. In counting the force on 
which reliance might be placed for meeting a possible 
enemy, the Secretary of War thought he could assemble one 
thousand regulars, independent of artillerists in the forts.^ 
The Secretary of the Navy could furnish one hundred and 
twenty marines, and the crews of Barney's flotilla, estimated 
at five hundred,^ For the rest, dependence must be upon 
militia, a call for which was issued to the number of ninety- 
three thousand, five hundred.^ Of these, fifteen thousand 
were assigned to Winder, as follows : From Virginia, two 
thousand; from Maryland, six thousand; from Pennsyl- 
vania, five thousand; from the District of Columbia, two 
thousand.^ So ineffective were the administrative measures 
for bringing out this paper force of citizen soldiery, the 
efficiency of which the leaders of the party in power had 
been accustomed to vaunt, that Winder, after falling back 
from point to point before the enemy's advance, because 
only so might time be gained to get together the lagging 
contingents, could muster in the open ground at Bladens- 
burg, five miles from the capital, where at last he made his 
stand, only the paltry five or six thousand stated by the 
court. On the morning of the battle the Secretary of War 
rode out to the field, with his colleagues in the Administra- 

^ Report of Secretary Armstrong to a Committee of the House of Bepre^ 
sentatives. American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. L p. 526. 

2 Ibid., pp. 5.38, 540, 524. 

3 Ibid., p. 524. 

344 THE WAR OF 1812 

tion, and in reply to a question from the President said he 
had no suggestions to offer; "as it was between regulars 
and militia, the latter would be beaten." i The phrase was 
Winder 's absolution ; pronounced for the future, as for the 
past. The responsibilit}^ for there being no regulars did not 
rest with him, nor yet with the Secretary, but with the men 
who for a dozen years had sapped the military preparation 
of the nation. 

Under the relative conditions of the opposing forces 
which have been stated, the progress of events was rapid. 
Probably few now realize that only a little over four days 
elapsed from the landing of the British to the burning of 
the Capitol. Their army advanced along the west bank of 
the Patuxent to Upper Marlborough, forty miles from the 
river's mouth. To this place, which was reached August 
22, Ross continued in direct touch with the navy; and 
here at Pig Point, nearly abreast on the river, the Ameri- 
can flotilla was cornered at last. Seeing the inevitable 
event, and to preserve his small but invaluable force of 
men, Barney had abandoned the boats on the 21st, leaving 
with each a half-dozen of her crew to destroy her at the 
last moment. This was done when the British next day 
approached ; one only escaping the flames. 

The city of Washington, now the goal of the enemy's 
effort, Hes on the Potomac, between it and a tributary 
called the Eastern Branch. Upon the east bank of the 
latter, five or six miles from the junction of the two 
streams, is the village of Bladensburg. From Upper 
Marlborough, where the British had arrived, two roads 
led to Washington. One of these, the left going from 
Marlborough, crossed the Eastern Branch near its mouth ; 
the other, less direct, passed through Bladensburg. Winder 
expected the British to advance by the former ; and upon 
it Barney with the four hundred seamen remaining to him 

1 Works of Madison (Ed. 1865), vol. iii. p. 422. 


joined the army, at a place called Oldfields, seven miles 
from the capital. This route was militarily the more im- 
portant, because from it branches were thrown off to the 
Potomac, up which the frigate squadron under Captain 
Gordon was proceeding, and had already passed the Kettle- 
bottoms, the most difficult bit of navigation in its path. 
The side roads would enable the invaders to reach and 
co-operate with this naval division ; unless indeed Winder 
could make head agfainst them. This he was not able to 
do ; but he remained almost to the last moment in perplex- 
ing uncertainty whether they would strike for the capital, 
or for its principal defence on the Potomac, Fort Washing- 
ton, ten miles lower down.^ 

For the obvious reasons named, because the doubts of 
their opponent facilitated their own movements by harass- 
ing his mind, as well as for the strategic advantage of 
a central hne permitting movement in two directions at 
choice, the British advanced, as anticipated, by the left-hand 
road, and at nightfall of August 23 were encamped about 
three miles from the Americans. Here Winder covered a 
junction; for at Oldfields the road by which the British 
were advancing forked. One division led to Washington 
direct, crossing the Eastern Branch of the Potomac where 
it is broadest and deepest, near its mouth ; the other passed 
it at Bladensburg. Winder feared to await the enemy, 
because of the disorder to which his inexperienced troops 
would be exposed by a night attack, causing possibly the 
loss of his artillery; the one £irm in which he felt himself 
superior. He retired therefore during the night by the 
direct road, burning its bridge. This left open the way to 
Bladensburg, which the British next day followed, arriving 
at the village towards noon of the 24th. Contrary to 
Winder's instruction, the officer stationed there had with- 

^ Winder's Narrative. American State Papers, Military Affairs, toL i. 
pp. 552-560. 

346 THE WAR OF 1812 

drawn his troops across the stream, abandoning the place, 
and forming his line on the crest of some hills on the west 
bank. The impression which this position made upon the 
enemy was described by General Ross, as follows : " They 
were strongly posted on very commanding heights, formed 
in two lines, the advance occupying a fortified house, which 
with artillery covered the bridge over the Eastern Branch, 
across which the British troops had to pass. A broad and 
straight road, leading from the bridge to Washington, ran 
through the enemy's position, which was carefully defended 
by artillerymen and riflemen." ^ Allowing for the tendency 
to magnify difficulties overcome, the British would have 
had before them a difficult task, if opposed by men accus- 
tomed to mutual support and mutual reliance, with tlie 
thousand-fold increase of strength which comes with such 
habit and with the moral confidence it gives. 

The American line had been formed before Winder came 
on the ground. It extended across the Washington road 
as described by Ross. A battery on the hill-top commanded 
the bridge, and was supported by a line of infantry on either 
side, with a second line in the rear. Fearing, however, 
that the enemy might cross the stream higher up, where it 
was fordable in many places, a regiment from the second 
line was reluctantly ordered forward to extend the left; 
and Winder, when he arrived, while approving this dispo- 
sition, carried thither also some of the artillery which he 
had brought with him.^ The anxiety of the Americans was 
therefore for their left. The British commander was eager 
to be done with his job, and to get back to his ships from a 
position militarily insecure. He had long been fighting 
Napoleon's troops in the Spanish peninsula, and was not 
yet fully imbued with Drummond's conviction that with 

1 Eoss's Despatch, Aug. 30, 1814. Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxii. p. 338. 

2 Narrative of Monroe, the Secretary of State. American State Papers, 
Military Affairs, vol. i. p. 536. 


American militia liberties might be taken beyond the limit 
of ordinary military precaution. No time was spent look- 
ing for a ford, but the troops dashed straight for the bridge. 
The fire of the American artillery was excellent, and 
mowed down the head of the column ; but the seasoned 
men persisted and forced their way across. At this mo- 
ment Barney was coming up with his seamen, and at 
Winder's request brought his guns into line across the 
Washington road, facing the bridge. Soon after this, a 
few rockets passing close over the heads of the battahons 
supporting the batteries on the left started them running, 
much as a mule train may be stampeded by a night alarm. 
It was impossible to rally them. A part held for a 'short 
time ; but when Winder attempted to retire them a little 
way, from a fire which had begun to annoy them, they 
also broke and fled.^ 

The American left was thus routed, but Barney's battery 
and its supporting infantry still held their ground. " Dur- 
ing this period," reported the Commodore, — that is, while 
his guns were being brought into battery, and the remain- 
der of his seamen and marines posted to support them, — 
^' the engagement continued, the enemy advancing, and our 
own army retreating before them, apparently in much dis- 
order. At length the enemy made liis appearance on the 
main road, in force, in front of my battery, and on seeing 
us made a halt. I reserved oui" fire. In a few minutes the 
enemy again advanced, when I ordered an 18-pounder to be 
fired, which completely cleared the road; shortly after, a 
second and a third attempt was made by the enemy to come 
forward, but all were destroyed. They then crossed into 
an open field and attempted to flank our right; he was 
met there by three 12-pounders, the marines under Captain 
IMiller, and my men, acting as infantry, and again was 
totally cut up. By this time not a vestige of the American 

1 Winder's Narrative. 

348 THE WAR OF 1812 

army remained, except a body of five or six hundred, posted 
on a height on my riglit, from whom I expected much sup- 
port from their fine situation." ^ 

In this expectation Barney was disappointed. Tlie 
enemy desisted from direct attack and worked gradually 
round towards his right flank and rear. As they thus 
moved, the guns of course were turned towards them ; but 
a charge being made up the hill by a force not exceeding 
half that of its defenders, they also " to my great mortifica- 
tion made no resistance, giving a fire or two, and retired. 
Our ammunition was expended, and unfortunately the 
drivers of my ammunition wagons had gone off in the 
general panic." Barney himself, being wounded and un- 
able to escape from loss of blood, was left a prisoner. Two 
of his officers were killed, and two wounded. The sur- 
vivors stuck to him till he ordered them off the ground. 
Ross and Cockburn were brought to him, and greeted him 
with a marked respect and politeness; and he reported 
that, during the stay of the British in Bladensburg, he was 
treated by all " like a brother," to use his own words.^ 

The character of this affair is sufficiently shown by the 
above outline narrative, re-enforced by the account of the 
losses sustained. Of the victors sixty-four were killed, one 
hundred and eighty-five wounded. The defeated, by the 
estimate of their superintending surgeon, had ten or twelve 
killed and forty wounded.^ Such a disparity of injury is 
usual when the defendants are behind fortifications ; but in 
this case of an open field, and a river to be crossed by the 
assailants, the evident significance is that the party attacked 
did not wait to contest the ground, once the enemy had 
gained the bridge. After that, not only was the rout com- 
plete, but, save for Barney's tenacity, there was almost no 

1 Barney's Report, Aug. 29, 1814. State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i, 
p. 579. 

2 Barney's Eeport. 

* American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i. p. 530. 


attempt at resistance. Ten pieces of cannon remained in 
the hands of the British. " The rapid flight of the enemy," 
reported General Ross, " and his knowledge of the country, 
precluded the possibility of many prisoners being taken." ^ 

That night the British entered Washington. The Cap- 
itol, White House, and several public buildings were burned 
by them; the navy yard and vessels by the American 
authorities. Ross, accustomed to European warfare, did 
not feel Drummond's easiness concerning his position, which 
technically was most insecure as regarded his communica- 
tions. On the evening of June 25 he withdrew rapidly, 
and on that of the 26th regained touch with the fleet in the 
Patuxent, after a separation of only four days. Cockbum 
remarked in his official report that there was no molestation 
of theii' retreat ; " not a single musket having been fired." ^ 
It was the completion of the Administration's disgrace, 
unrelieved by any feature of credit save the gallant stand 
of Barney's four hundred. 

The burning of Washington was the impressive culmina- 
tion of the devastation to which the coast districts were 
everywhere exposed by the weakness of the country, whUe 
the battle of Bladensburg crowned the humiliation entailed 
upon the nation by the demagogic prejudices in favor of 
untrained patriotism, as supplying all defects for ordinary 
service in the field. In the defenders of Bladensburg was 
realized Jefferson's ideal of a citizen soldiery ,3 unskilled, 
but strong in their love of home, flying to arms to oppose 
an invader ; and they had every inspiring incentive to tenac- 
ity, for they, and they only, stood between the enemy and 
the centre and heart of national life. The position they oc- 
cupied, though unfortified, had many natural advantages ; 
while the enemy had to cross a river which, while in part 

^ Ross's Despatch. 

2 Report of Rear-Admiral Cockbum, Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxii. p. 345. 

3 Ante, p. 21.3. 

350 THE WAR OF 1812 

fordable, was nevertheless an obstacle to rapid action, 
especially when confronted by the superior artillery the 
Americans had. The result has been told ; but only when 
contrasted with the contemporary fight at Lundy's Lane is 
Bladensburg rightly appreciated. Occurring precisely a 
month apart, and with men of the same race, they illustrate 
exactly the difference in military value between crude 
material and finished product. 

Coincident with the capture of Washington, a little 
British squadron — two frigates and five smaller vessels — 
ascended the Potomac. Fort Washington, a dozen miles 
below the capital, was abandoned August 27 by the officer 
in charge, removing the only obstacle due to the foresight 
of the Government. He was afterwards cashiered by sen- 
tence of court martial. On the 29th, Captain Gordon, the 
senior officer, anchored his force before Alexandria, of 
which he kept possession for three days. Upon withdraw- 
ing, he carried away all the merchantmen that were sea- 
worthy, having loaded them with merchandise awaiting 
exportation. Energetic efforts were made by Captains 
Rodgers, Perry, and Porter, of tlie American Navy, to 
molest the enemj^'s retirement by such means as could be 
extemporized ; but both ships and prizes escaped, the only 
loss being in life : seven killed and forty-five wounded. 

After the burning of Washington, the British main fleet 
and army moved up the Chesapeake against Baltimore, 
which would undoubtedly have undergone the lot of Alex- 
andria, in a contribution laid upon shipping and merchan- 
dise. The attack, however, was successfully met. The 
respite afforded by the expedition against Washington had 
been improved by the citizens to interpose earthworks on 
the hills before the city. This local precaution saved the 
place. In the field the militia behaved better than at 
Bladensburg, but showed, nevertheless, the unsteadiness 
of raw men. To harass the British advance a body of 


riflemen had been posted well forward, and a shot from 
these mortally wounded General Ross ; but, " imagine my 
chagi'in, when I perceived the whole corps falling back 
upon my main position, having too credulously listened to 
groundless information that the enemy was landing on 
Back River to cut them off." ^ 

The British approached along the narrow strip of land 
between the Patapsco and Back rivers. The American 
general, Strieker, had judiciously selected for his line of 
defence a neck, where inlets from both streams narrowed 
the ground to half a mile. His flanks were thus protected, 
but the water on the left giving better indication of being 
fordable, the British directed there the weight of the as- 
sault. To meet this, Strieker drew up a regiment to the 
rear of his main line, and at right angles, the volleys from 
which should sweep the inlet. When the enemy's attack 
developed, this regiment "delivered one random fire," and 
then broke and fled ; " totally forgetful of the honor of 
the brigade, and of its own reputation," to use Strieker's 
words.2 This flight carried along part of the left flank 
proper. The remainder of the line held for a time, and 
then retired without awaiting the hostile bayonet. The 
American report gives the impression of an orderly retreat ; 
a British participant, who admits that the ground was well 
chosen, and that the line held until within twenty yards, 
wrote that after that he never witnessed a more complete 
rout. The invaders then approached the city, but upon 
viewing the works of defence, and learning that the fleet 
would not be able to co-operate, owing to vessels sunk 
across the channel, the commanding officer decided that 
success would not repay the loss necessary to achieve it. 
Fleet and army then withdrew. 

1 Report of Brigadier-General Strieker of the Maryland militia. Niles' 
Register, voL vii. pp. 27, 28. 

2 Bid. 

352 THE WAR OF 1812 

The attacks on Washington and Baltimore, the seizure 
of Alexandria, and the general conduct of operations in the 
Chesapeake, belong strictly to the punitive purpose which 
dictated British measures upon the seaboard. Similar 
action extended through Long Island Sound, and to 
the eastward, where alarm in all quarters was maintained 
by the general enterprise of the enemy, and by specific 
injury in various places. " The Government has declared 
war against the most powerful maritime nation," wrote the 
Governor of Massachusetts to the legislature, " and we are 
disappointed in our expectations of national defence. But 
though we may be convinced that the war was unnecessary 
and unjust, and has been prosecuted without any useful or 
practicable object with the inhabitants of Canada, while 
our seacoast has been left almost defenceless, yet I presume 
there will be no doubt of our right to defend our possessions 
against any hostile attack by which their destruction is 
menaced." " The eastern coast," reports a journal of the 
time, " is much vexed by the enemy. Having destroyed a 
great portion of the coasting craft, they seem determined 
to enter the little outports and villages, and burn every- 
thing that floats." 1 On April 7, six British barges as- 
cended the Connecticut River eight miles, to Pettipaug, 
where they burned twenty-odd sea-going vessels.^ On 
June 13, at Wareham, Massachusetts, a similar expedi- 
tion entered and destroyed sixteen.^ These were somewhat 
large instances of an action everywhere going on, inflicting 
indirectly incalculably more injury than even the direct loss 
suffered ; the whole being with a view to bring the mean- 
ing of war close home to the consciousness of the American 
people. They were to be made to realize the power of 
the enemy and their own helplessness. 

An attempt looking to more permanent results was made 

1 Niles' Register, vol. vi. p. 317. 

2 Ibid., pp. 118, 133, 222. « Ibid., p. 317. 


during the summer upon the coast of Maine. The north- 
ward projection of that state, then known as the Distiict 
of Maine,^ intervened between the British provinces of 
Lower Canada and New Brunswick, and imposed a long 
ddtour upon the line of communications between Quebec 
and Halifax, the two most important military posts in 
British Xorth America. This inconvenience could not be 
remedied unless the land in question were brought into 
British possession ; and when the end of the war in Europe 
gave prospect of a vigorous offensive from the side of 
Canada, the British ministry formulated the purpose of 
demanding there a rectification of frontier. The object in 
this case being acquisition, not punishment, conciliation of 
the inhabitants was to be pi-actised ; in place of the retalia- 
tory action prescribed for the sea-coast elsewhere. 

^loose Island, in Passamaquoddy Bay, though held by 
the United States, was claimed by Great Britain to have 
been always within the boundary line of Xew Brunswick. 
It was seized July 11, 1814 ; protection being promised to 
persons and property. In August, General Sherbrooke, 
the Governor of Nova Scotia, received orders " to occupy 
so much of the District of Maine as shall insure an unin- 
terrupted communication between Halifax and Quebec." ^ 
His orders being discretional as to method, he decided that 
with the force available he would best comply by taking 
possession of Machias and the Penobscot River.^ On Sep- 
tember 1, a combined naval and army expedition appeared 
at the mouth of the Penobscot, before Castine, which was 
quickly abandoned. A few days before, the United States 
frigate "Adams," Captain Charles ^lorris, returning from 
a cruise, had run ashore upon Isle au Haut, and in conse- 
quence of the injuries received had been compelled to 

* Maiue was then attached politically to Massachusetts. 

2 Sherbrooke to Prevost, Ang. 2, 1814. Canadian Archives MSS., C. 685^ 
p. 28. 

* Sherbrooke to Preyost, Ang. 24, 1814. Ibid., p. 147. 
VOL. II. — 23 

354 THE WAR OF 1812 

make a harbor in the river. She was then at Hampden, 
thirty miles up. A detachment of seamen and soldiers 
was sent against her. Her guns had been landed, and 
placed in battery for her defence, and militia had gathered 
for the support necessary to artillery so situated ; but they 
proved unreliable, and upon their retreat nothing was left 
but to fire the ship.^ This was done, the crew escaping. 
The British penetrated as far as Bangor, seized a number 
of merchant vessels, and subsequently went to Machias, 
where they captured the fort with twenty-five cannon. 
Sherbrooke then returned with the most of his force to 
Halifax, whence he issued a voluminous proclamation^ to 
the effect that he had taken possession of all the country 
between the Penobscot and New Brunswick ; and promised 
protection to the inhabitants, if they behaved themselves 
accordingly. Two regiments were left at Castine, with 
transports to remove them in case of attack by superior 
numbers. This burlesque of occupation, "one foot on 
shore, and one on sea," was advanced by the British min- 
istry as a reason justifying the demand for cession of the 
desired territory to the northward. Wellington, when 
called into counsel concerning American affairs, said de- 
risively that an officer might as well claim sovereignty 
over the ground on which he had posted his pickets. The 
British force remained undisturbed, however, to the end of 
the war. Amicable relations were established with the 
inhabitants, and a brisk contraband trade throve with Nova 
Scotia. It is even said that the news of peace was unwel- 
come in the place. It was not evacuated until April 27, 

1 Morris' reports (Captains' Letters, Navy Dept.) are published in Niles' 
Register, vol. vii. pp. 62, 63 ; and Supplement, p. 136. 

2 Sept. 21, 1814. Niles' Register, vol. vii. p. 117. 
8 Ibid., p. 347, and vol. viii. pp. 13, 214. 


GENERAL BROWN'S retirement within the 
lines of Fort Erie, July 26, 1814, may be 
taken as marking the definitive abandonment 
by the United States of the offensive on the 
Canada frontier. The opportunities of two years had been 
wasted by inefficiency of force and misdirection of effort. 
It was generally recognized by thoughtful men that the 
war had now become one of defence against a greatly supe- 
rior enemy, disembarrassed of the other foe which had 
hitherto engaged his attention, and imbued with ideas of 
conquest, or at least of extorting territorial cession for 
specific purposes. While Brown was campaigning, the re- 
enforcements were rapidly arriving which were to enable 
the British to assume the aggressive ; although, in the ab- 
sence of naval preponderance on the lakes, their numbers 
were not sufficient to compel the rectification of frontier 
by surrender of territory which the British Government 
now desired. Lord Castlereagh, Secretary for Foreign 
Affairs, and the leading representative of the aims of the 
Cabinet, wrote in his instructions to the Peace Commission- 
ers, August 14, 1814 : " The views of the Government are 
strictly defensive. Territory as such is by no means their 
object ; but, as the weaker Power in North America, Great 
Britain considers itself entitled to claim the use of the lakes 
as a military barrier."^ The declaration of war by the 

1 Memoirs and Correspondence of Lord Castlereagh. Series iii. voL ii 
pp. 86-91. 

356 THE WAR OF 1812 

United States was regarded by most Englishmen as a wan- 
ton endeavor to overthrow their immemorial right to the 
services of their seamen, wherever found ; and consequently 
the invasion of Canada had been an iniquitous attempt to 
effect annexation under cover of an indefensible pretext. 
To guard against the renewal of such, the lakes must be 
made British waters, to which the American flag should 
have only commercial access. Dominion south of the lakes 
would not be exacted, "provided the American Government 
will stipulate not to preserve or construct any fortifications 
upon or within a limited distance of their shores." " On 
the side of Lower Canada there should be such a line of 
demarcation as may establish a direct communication be- 
tween Quebec and Halifax." ^ 

Such were the political and military projects with which 
the British ministry entered upon the summer campaign of 
1814 in Canada. Luckily, although Napoleon had fallen, 
conditions in Europe were still too unsettled and volcanic 
to permit Great Britain seriously to weaken her material 
force there. Two weeks later Castlereagh wrote to the 
Prime Minister: "Are we prepared to continue the war 
for territorial arrangements ? " " Is it desirable to take the 
chances of the campaign, and then be governed by circum- 
stances ? " 2 The last sentence defines the policy actually 
followed; and the chances went definitely against it 
when Macdonough destroyed the British fleet on Lake 
Champlain. Except at Baltimore and New Orleans, — 
mere defensive successes, — nothing but calamity befell 
the American arms. To the battle of Lake Champlain it 
was owing that the British occupancy of United States soil 
at the end of the year was such that the Duke of Welling- 
ton advised that no claim for territorial cession could be 

1 Castlereagh Memoirs, series iii. vol. ii. pp. 86-91. 

2 Castlereagh to Liverpool (Prime Minister), Aug. 28, 1814. Ibid., 
pp. 100-102. 


considered to exist, and that the basis of uti possidetis, upon 
which it was proposed to treat, was untenable.^ The earn- 
estness of the Government, however, in seeking the changes 
specified, is indicated by the proposition seriously made to 
the Duke to take the command in America. 

Owing to the mihtary conditions hitherto existing on 
the American continent, the power to take the offensive 
throughout the lake frontier had rested with the United 
States Government ; and the direction given by this to its 
efforts had left Lake Charaplain practically out of consider- 
ation. Sir George Prevost, being thrown on the defensive, 
could only conform to the initiative of his adversary. For 
these reasons, whatever transactions took place in this 
quarter up to the summer of 1814 were in characteristic 
simply episodes ; an epithet which applies accurately to the 
more formidable, but brief, operations here in 1814, as 
also to those in Louisiana. Whatever intention underlay 
either attempt, they were in matter of fact almost with- 
out any relations of antecedent or consequent. They stood 
by themselves, and not only may, but should, be so con- 
sidered. Prior to them, contemporary reference to Lake 
Champlain, or to Louisiana, is both rare and casual. For 
this reason, mention of earher occurrences in either of these 
quarters has heretofore been deferred, as irrelevant and in- 
trusive if introduced among other events, with which they 
coincided in time, but had no further connection. A brief 
narrative of them will now be presented, as a necessary 
introduction to the much more important incidents of 

At the beginning of hostilities the balance of naval power 
on Lake Champlain rested with the United States, and so 
continued until June, 1813. The force on each side was 
small to tri^•iahty, nor did either make any serious attempt 

1 Wellington to Liverpool, Nov. 9, 1814. Castlereagh Memoirs, series iii 
Tol. ii. pp. 186-189. 

358 THE WAR OF 181S 

to obtain a marked preponderance. The Americans had, 
however, three armed sloops, the "President," "Growler," 
and " Eagle," to which the British could oppose only one. 
Both parties had also a few small gunboats and rowing gal- 
leys, in the number of which the superiority lay with the 
British. Under these relative conditions the Americans 
ranged the lake proper at will ; the enemy maintaining his 
force in the lower narrows, at Isle aux Noix, which was 
made a fortified station. 

On June 1, 1813, a detachment of British boats, coming 
up the lake, passed the boundary line and fired upon some 
small American craft. The " Eagle " and " Growler," being 
then at Plattsburg, started in pursuit on the 2d, and by 
dark had entered some distance within the narrows, where 
they anchored. The following morning they sighted three 
of the enemy's gunboats and chased them with a fair south 
wind ; but, being by this means led too far, they became 
entangled in a place where manoeuvring was difficult. 
The officers of the royal navy designated for service on 
Lake Champlain had not yet arrived, and the flotilla was 
at the disposition of the commanding army officer at Isle 
aux Noix. Only one sloop being visible at first to the gar- 
rison, he sent out against her the three gunboats ; but when 
the second appeared he landed a number of men on each 
bank, who took up a position to rake the vessels. The 
action which followed lasted three hours. The circum- 
stances were disadvantageous to the Americans ; but the fair 
wind with which they had entered was ahead for return, 
and to beat back was impossible in so narrow a channel. 
The " Eagle " received a raking shot, and had to be run 
ashore to avoid sinking. Both then surrendered, and the 
" Eagle " was afterwards raised. The two prizes were taken 
into the British service ; and as this occurrence followed 
immediately after the capture of the " Chesapeake " by 
the " Shannon," they were called " Broke " and " Shannon." 


These names afterwards were changed, apparently by Ad- 
miralty order, to "Chub" and "Finch," under which they 
took part in the battle of Lake Champlain, where they were 

Although not built for war, but simply purchased vessels 
of not over one hundred tons, this loss was serious ; for by 
it superiorit}' on the lake passed to the British, and with 
some fluctuation so remained for a twelvemonth, — till 
May, 1814. They were still too deficient in men to 
profit at once by their success; the difiiculty of recruit- 
ing in Canada being as great as in the United States, 
and for xevj similar reasons. " It is impossible to enlist 
seamen in Quebec for the lakes, as merchants are giving 
twent}*-five to thirty guineas for the run to England. Re- 
cruits desert as soon as they receive the bounty." ^ After 
some correspondence. Captain Everard, of the sloop of war 
" Wasp," then lying at Quebec, consented to leave his ship, 
go with a large part of her crew to Champlain, man the 
captured sloops, and raid the American stations on the 
lake. A body of troops being embarked, the flotilla left 
Isle aux Noix July 29. On the 30th they came to Platts- 
burg, destroyed there the public buildings, with the bar- 
racks at Saranac, and brought off a quantity of stores. A 
detachment was sent to Champlain Town, and a landing 
made also at S wanton in Vermont, where similar devasta- 
tion was inflicted on public property. Thence they went 
up the lake to Burlington, where Macdonough, who was 
alarmingly short of seamen since the capture of the 
" Eagle " and " Growler," had to submit to seeing himself 
defied by vessels lately his own. After seizing a few more 
small lake craft, Everard on August 3 hastened back, 
anxious to regain his own ship and resume the regular 
duties, for abandoning which he had no authority save his 
own. The step he had taken was hardly to be anticipated 

1 Canadian Archives, C. 680, p. 46. The date is Sept. 10, 1813. 

860 THE WAR OF 1812 

from a junior officer, commanding a ship on sea service so 
remote from the scene of the proposed operation ; and the 
rapidity of his action took the Americans quite by surprise, 
for there had been no previous indication of activity. As 
soon as Macdonough heard of his arrival at Isle aux Noix, 
he wrote for re-enforcements, but it was too late. His let- 
ter did not reach New York till the British had come and 

Upon Everard's return both he and Captain Pring, of 
the royal navy, who had been with him during the foray 
and thenceforth remained attached to the fortunes of the 
Champlain flotilla, recommended the building of a large brig 
of war and two gunboats, in order to preserve upon the lake 
the supremacy they had just asserted in act. With the 
material at hand, they said, these vessels could all be afloat 
within eight weeks after their keels were laid.^ This sug- 
gestion appears to have been acted upon ; for in the follow- 
ing March it was reported that there were building at St. 
John's a brig to carry twenty guns, a schooner of eighteen, 
and twelve 2-gun galleys. However, the Americans also 
were by this time building, and at the crucial moment came 
out a very little ahead in point of readiness. 

Nothing further of consequence occurred during 1813. 
After the British departed, Macdonough received a re- 
enforcement of men. He then went in person with such 
vessels as he had to the foot of the lake, taking station at 
Plattsburg, and advancing at times to the boundary line, 
twenty-five miles below. The enemy occasionally showed 
themselves, but were apparently indisposed to action in 
their then state of forwardness. Later the American flotilla 
retired up the lake to Otter Creek in Vermont, where, on 
April 11, 1814, was launched the ship "Saratoga," which 
carried Macdonough's pendant in the battle five months 

1 Letter of Captain Evans, commanding N. Y. Navy Yard, Aug. 6, 1813. 
' Canadian Archives, C. 679, pp. 348, 362. 


From the painting by Gilbert Stuart in the Century Club, New York, 
by permission of Rodney Mncdonough, Etq. 


afterwards. On May 10, Pring, hoping to destroy the 
American vessels before ready for service, made another 
inroad with his squadron, consisting now of the new brig, 
called the " Linnet," five armed sloops, and thirteen galleys. 
On the 14th he was off Otter Creek and attacked; but 
batteries established on shore compelled him to retire. 
jNIacdonough in his report of this transaction mentions only 
eight galleys, with a bomb vessel, as the number of the 
enemy engaged. The new brig was probably considered 
too essential to naval control to be risked against shore 
guns ; a decision scarcely to be contested, although Prevost 
seems to have been dissatisfied as usual with the exertions 
of the navy. The American force at this time completed, 
or approaching completion, was, besides the " Saratoga," 
one schooner, three sloops,^ and ten gunboats or galleys. 
Of the sloops one only, the " Preble," appears to have been 
serviceable. The "President" and another called the 
" Montgomery " were not in the fight at Plattsburg ; where 
Macdonough certainly needed every gun he could com- 
mand. A brig of twenty guns, called the "Eagle," was 
subsequentl}' laid down and launched in time for the action. 
Prevost reported at this period that a new ship was build- 
ing at Isle aux Noix, which would make the British force 
equal to the American. 

Before the end of May, 1814, Macdonough's fleet was 
ready, except the " Eagle " ; and on the 29th he was off 
Plattsburg, with the " Saratoga," the schooner " Ticonde- 
roga," the sloop " Preble," and ten galleys. The command 
of the lake thus established permitted the transfer of troops 
and stores, before locked up in Burlington. The " Sara- 
toga " carried twenty-six guns ; of which eight were long 
24-pounders, the others carronades, six 42-pounders, and 
twelve 32's. She was so much superior to the " Linnet," 

1 Izard savs two. OflScial Correspondence of the Department of Wat 
with Major-General Izard, 1814 and 1815, p. 7. 

362 THE WAR OF 1812 

which had only sixteen guns, long 12-pounders, that the 
incontestable supremacy remained with the Americans, 
and it was impossible for the British squadron to show it- 
self at all until their new ship was completed. She was 
launched August 25,^ and called the " Confiance." ^ The 
name excited some derision after her defeat and capture, 
but seems to have had no more arrogant origin than the 
affectionate recollection of the Commander-in-Chief on the 
lakes, Sir James Yeo, for the vessel which he had first and 
long commanded, to which he had been promoted for dis- 
tinguished gallantry in winning her, and in which he finally 
reached post-rank. The new " Confiance," from which 
doubtless much was hoped, was her namesake. She was 
to carry twenty-seven 24-poundei-s. One of these, being 
on a pivot, fought on either side of the ship ; thus giving 
her fourteen of these guns for each broadside. In addi- 
tion, she had ten carronades, four of them 32-pounders, 
and six 24's. 

On July 12, 1814, Prevost had reported the arrival at 
Montreal of the first of four brigades from Wellington's 
Peninsular Army. These had sailed from Bordeaux at the 
same period as the one destined for the Atlantic coast 
operations, under General Ross, already related. He ac- 
knowledged also the receipt of instructions, prescribing 
the character of his operations, which he had anxiously 
requested the year before. Among these instructions were 
" to give immediate protection to his Majesty's possessions 
in America," by "the entire destruction of Sackett's Har- 
bor, and of the naval establishments on Lake Erie and Lake 
Champlain." ^ They will be obeyed, he wrote, as soon as 
the whole force shall have arrived ; but defensive measures 
only will be practicable, until the complete command of 

1 British Court Martial Record. 

2 Confidence. 

* Account of the Public Life of Sir George Prevost, p. 136. 


Lakes Ontario and Champlain shall be obtained, which 
cannot be expected before September.^ The statement was 
perfectly coiTect. The command of these lakes was abso- 
lutely essential to both parties to the war, if intending to 
maintain operations in their neighborhood. 

On August 14, Prevost reported home that the troops 
from Bordeaux had aU arrived, and, with the exception of 
a brigade destined for Kingston, would be at their points of 
formation by the 25th ; at which date his returns show that 
he had under his general command, in I'pper and Lower 
Canada, exclusive of officers, twenty-nine thousand four 
hundred and thirty-seven men. All these were British 
regulars, with the exception of four thousand seven hun- 
dred and six ; of which last, two thousand two hundred 
belonged to "foreign" regiments, and the remainder to 
provincial corps. Of this total, from eleven thousand to 
fourteen thousand accompanied him in hLs march to Platts- 
burg. Under the same date he reported that the " Con£- 
ance " could not be ready before September 15 ; for which 
time had he patiently waited, he would at least have better 
deserved success. His decision as to his line of advance 
was determined by a singular consideration, deeply morti- 
fying to American recollection, but which must be men- 
tioned because of its historical interest, as an incidental 
indication of the slow progress of the people of the United 
States towards national sentiment. " Vermont has shown 
a disinchnation to the war, and, as it is sending in specie 
and provisions, I will confine offensive operations to the 
west side of Lake Champlain." ^ Three weeks later he 
writes again, " Two thirds of the array are supplied with 
beef by American contractors, principally of Vermont and 
New York." 3 

1 Prerost to Bathnrst, July 12, 1814. Report on Canadian Archires, 1896. 
Lower Canada, p. 31. 

2 Prevost to Bathnrst, Aug. 5, 1814. Ibid., p. 35. 
• Prevost to Bathnrst, Aug. 27. 

364 THE WAR OF 1812 

That this was no slander was indignantly confirmed by a 
citizen of Vermont, who wrote to General Izard, June 27, 
" Droves of cattle are continually passing from the northern 
parts of this state into Canada for the British." Izard, 
in forwarding the letter, said: "This confirms a fact not 
only disgraceful to our countrymen but seriously detrimen- 
tal to the public interest. From the St. Lawrence to the 
ocean an open disregard prcA'^ails for the laws prohibiting 
intercourse with the enemy. The road to St. Regis [New 
York] is covered with droves of cattle, and the river with 
rafts destined for the enemy. On the eastern side of Lake 
Champlain the high roads are insufficient for the cattle 
pouring into Canada. Like herds of buffaloes they press 
through the forests, making paths for themselves. Were 
it not for these supplies, the British forces in Canada would 
soon be suffering from famine." ^ The British commissary 
at Prescott wrote, June 19, 1814, " I have contracted with 
a Yankee magistrate to furnish this post with fresh beef. 
A major came with him to make the agreement ; but, as he 
was foreman of the grand jury of the court in which the 
Government prosecutes the magistrates for high treason 
and smuggling, he turned his back and would not see the 
paper signed." ^ More vital still in its treason to the inter- 
ests of the country. Commodore Macdonough reported offi- 
cially, June 29, that one of his officers had seized two spars, 
supposed from their size to be for the fore and mizzen 
masts of the " Confiance," on the way to Canada, near the 
lines, under the management of citizens of the United 
States; and eight days later there were intercepted four 
others, which from their dimensions were fitted for her 
mainmast and three topmasts.^ By this means the British 
ship was to be enabled to sail for the attack on the Ameri- 

1 Official Correspondence of General Izard with the Department of War, 
pp. 66, 57. Philadelphia, 1816. 

2 Ridout, Ten Years in Upper Canada, p. 282. 
• Niles' Register, vol. vi. p. 357. 


can fleet, and by this only ; for to drag spars of that weight 
up the rapids of the Richelieu, or over the rough interven- 
ing count!}-, meant at least unendurable delay. "The 
tuipitude of many of our citizens in this part of the 
country," wrote Macdonough, "furnishes the enemy with 
every information he wants." ^ 

On August 29, four days after Prevost's divisions were 
expected to be assembled at their designated rendezvous, 
Izard, in the face of the storm gathering before him, started 
with his four thousand men from Plattsburg for Sackett's 
Harbor, in obedience to the intimation of the War Depart- 
ment, which he accepted as orders. Brigadier-General 
Macomb was left to hold the works about Plattsburgr with 
a force which he stated did not exceed fifteen hundred 
effectives.^ His own brigade having been broken up to 
strengthen Izard's division, none of this force was organ- 
ized, except four companies of one regiment. The remain- 
der were convalescents, or recruits of new regiments; 
soldiers as yet only in name, and without the constituted 
regimental framework, incorporation into which so much 
facilitates the transition from the recruit to the veteran. 
On September 4 seven hundred militia from the neighbor- 
hood joined, in response to a call from Macomb ; and before 
the final action of the 11th other militia from New York, 
and volunteei-s from Vermont, across the lake, kept pour- 
ing in from all quarters, in encouraging contrast to their 
fellow citizens who were making money by abetting the 

Prevost's aiTay, which had been assembled along the 
frontier of Lower Canada, from the Richelieu River to 
the St. Lawrence, began its forward march August 31 ; the 

1 June 8, 1814. Narv Department MSS. 

2 Macomb's Report, Brannan's Military and Naval Letters, p. 415. Izard 
(Correspondence, p. 98) says, " There were at or about the works at Platts- 
burg not less than three thousand regulars, of whom fifteen hundred were fit 
for duty in the field. In the number were three companies of artillerv." 

366 THE WAR OF 1812 

leading brigade entering the State of New York, and en- 
camping that night at Champlain Town, a short distance 
south of the boundary. By September 4 the whole body 
had reached to the village of Chazy, twenty-five miles 
from Plattsburg. Thus far, to the mouth of the Little 
Chazy River, where the supplies of the army were to be 
landed, no opposition was experienced. The American 
squadron waiting on the defensive at Plattsburg, the left 
flank of the British received constant support from their 
flotilla of gunboats and galleys under the command of 
Captain Bring, who seized also the American Island La 
Motte, in the narrows of the lake, abreast the Little Chazy. 
The following day, September 5, delays began to be met 
through the trees felled and bridges broken by Macomb's 
orders. On the 6th there was some skirmishing between the 
advanced guards ; but the American militia " could not be 
prevailed on to stand, notwithstanding the exertions of their 
officers, although the fields were divided by strong stone 
walls, and they were told that the enemy could not possibly 
cut them off. " ^ Deprived of this support, the small body 
of regulars could do httle, and the British Peninsulars 
pushed on contemptuously, and almost silently. "They 
never deployed in their whole march," reported Macomb, 
"always pressing on in column." That evening they 
entered Plattsburg. Macomb retreated across the Saranac, 
which divided the town. He removed from the bridges their 
planking, which was used to form breastworks to dispute 
any attempt to force a passage, and then retired to the 

^ General Benjamin Mooers, who was in command of the New York State 
militia during these operations, in a letter to Governor Tompkins, dated 
Sept. 16, 1814 (Gov. Tompkins MSS. vol. ix. pp. 212-217, State Library, 
Albany, N. Y.), claims that Macomb was here less than just to the militia, 
" many of whom stood their ground as long as it was tenable " during the first 
day. In a general order issued by him Sept. 8 (Niles' Register, vol. vii. p. 70), 
he spoke of some "who fled at the first approach of the enemy, and afterwards 
basely disbanded themselves, and returned home." Macomb himself wrote 
that after the first day, when the army had retired to the works, " the militia 
behaved with great spirit." 


works previously prepared by Izard. These were on the 
bluffs on the south side of the Sai-anac, overlooking the bay, 
and covering the peninsula embraced between the lake and 
the river. 

From the 7th to the 11th, the day of the battle, the 
British were employed in preparations for battering the 
forts, preliminary to an assault, and there was constant 
skirmishing at the bridges and fords. Macomb utilized the 
same time to strengthen his works, aided by the numbers 
of militia continually arriving, who labored night and day 
with great spirit. Prevost's purposes and actions were 
dominated by the urgency of haste, owing to the lateness 
of the season ; and this motive co-operated with a certain 
captiousness of temper to precipitate him now into a grave 
error of judgment and of conduct. At Plattsburg he found 
the small American army intrenched behind a fordable 
river, the bridges of which had been made useless ; and in 
the bay lay the American squadron, anchored with a view 
to defence. The two were not strictly in co-operation, in 
their present position. Tactically, they for the moment 
contributed little to each other's support; for the reason 
that the position chosen judiciously by Macdonough for 
the defence of the bay was too far from the works of the 
army to receive — or to give — assistance with the guns of 
that day. The squadron was a little over a mile from the 
army. It could not remain there, if the British got pos- 
session of the works, for it would be within range of injury 
at long shot; but in an engagement between the hostile 
fleets the bluffs could hav^e no share, no matter which party 
held them, for the fire would be as dangerous to friend as 
to foe. 

The question of probability, that the American squadron 
was within long gunshot of the shore batteries, is crucial, 
for upon it would depend the ultimate militaiy judgment 
upon the management of Sir George Prevost. That he 

368 THE WAR OF 1812 

felt this is evident by letters addressed on his behalf to 
Macdonough ; by A. W. Cochran, a lawyer of Quebec, to 
whom Prevost, after his recall to England for trial, left the 
charge of collecting testimony, and by Cadwalader Golden 
of New York.i Both inquire specifically as to this dis- 
tance, Golden particularizing that " it would be all impor- 
tant to learn that the American squadron were during the 
engagement beyond the effectual range of the batteries." 
To Golden, Macdonough replied guardedly, "It is my 
opinion that our squadron was anchored one mile and a 
half from the batteries." The answer to Gochran has not 
been found; but on the back of the letter from him the 
Commodore sketched his recollection of the situation, which 
is here reproduced. Without insisting unduly on the pre- 
cision of such a piece, it seems clear that he thought his 
squadron but little more than half way towards the other 
side of the bay. Cumberland Head being by survey two 
miles from the batteries, it would follow that the vessels 
were a little over a mile from them. This inference is 
adopted as more dependable than the estimate, " a mile and 
a half." Such eye reckoning is notoriously uncertain ; 
and this seemingly was made by recollection, not contem- 

The 24- and 32-pounder long gun of that day ranged a 
sea mile and a half, with an elevation of less than fifteen 
degrees.^ They could therefore annoy a squadron at or 

^ For copies of these letters, and of Macdonough's reply and endorsement, 
I am indebted to Mr. Rodney Macdonough, the Commodore's grandson. 
Cochran's is dated March 22, and Colden's June 26, 181.5 ; Macdonough's 
reply July 3. It is well to note that all these preceded the British naval 
court martial, held in Portsmouth, Aug. 18-21, 1815, where the testimony 
that the squadron was within range was unanimous and accepted by the Court. 

2 The first lieutenant of the " Confiance " in his evidence said that it was 
not more than ten minutes after the ship rounded Cumberland Head that the 
enemy began firing at her, and that the shot at first fell short. As far as it 
goes, this would show that the American squadron was over a mile from the 
Head ; and, if so, scarcely more than a mile from the batteries. 

8 For information as to ranges, the author applied to Professor Philip R. 


•V X 


A,A. American Galleys 

British advancing, after round- 
B.B.- ing Cumberland Head. Galleys 

on the left 
C. Confiance, anchored 
L. Linnet »* 

H. Chub, after drifting through the 

American line 
W. American shore works 

Tracing from pencil sketch of Battle of L.Champlain, made by Com. 
Macdonough on back of a letter of inauiry, addressed to him within 
a year of the action. 

The names are not in the sketch; but with the letters, exoress the author's 
understanding of the Commodore's meaning. 


within that distance. The question is not of best fighting 
range. It is whether a number of light built and light 
draught vessels could hold their ground under such a can- 
nonade, knowing that a hostile squadron awaited them 
without. Even at such random range, a disabling shot 
in huU or spars must be expected. At whatever risk, 
departure is enforced. 

To a s imil ar letter from Golden, General Macomb replied 
that he did not think the squadron within range. There 
is also a statement in Niles' Register ^ that several British 
officers visited Macomb at Plattsburg, aud at their request 
€xperiments wei-e made, presumably trial shots, to ascer- 
tain whether the guns of the forts could have annoyed 
the American squadron. It was found they could not. 
Macomb's opinion may have rested upon this, and the con- 
clusion may be just; but it is open to remark that, as 
the squadron was not then there, its assumed position 
depended upon memory, — like Macdonough's sketch. 
Macomb said further, that " a fruitless attempt was made 
duriug the action to elevate the guns so as to bear on the 
«nemy ; but none were fired, all being convinced that the 
vessels were beyond their reach." The worth of this con- 
viction is shown by the next remark, which he repeated 
under date of August 1, 1815.^ " This opinion was 
strengthened by observations on the actual range of the 
guns of the 'Confiance' — her heaviest metal [24-pound- 
ers] falling upwards of five hundred yards short of the 
shore." The " Confiance " was five hundred yards further 
off than the American squadron, and to reach it her guns 
would be elevated for that distance only. Because mider 
such condition they dropped their shot five hundred yards 

Alger, U. S. Navy, whose intimate aoqaaintance with qaestions of ordnance 
and gunnery is known throughout his service. 

1 Vol. viii. p. 70, April 1, 1815. 

2 These two letters of Macomb are given in the " Accoimt of the Public 
Life of Sir George Frevost," p. 165. 

VOL. II. — 24 

370 THE WAR OF 1812 

short of three thousand five hundred yards, it is scarcely 
legitimate to infer that guns elevated for three thousand 
could not carry so far. 

The arguments having been stated, it is to be remarked 
that, whatever the truth, it is knowledge after the fact as 
far as Prevost was concerned. In his report dated Sep- 
tember 11, 1814, the day of the action, he speaks of the 
difficulties which had been before him; among them 
" blockhouses armed with heavy ordnance." This he then 
believed ; and whether this ordnance could reach the squad- 
ron he could only know by trying. It was urgently 
proper, in view of his large land force, and of the expec- 
tations of his Government, which had made such great 
exertions for an attainable and important object, that he 
should storm the works and try. After a careful estimate 
of the strength of the two squadrons, I think that a sea- 
man would certainly say that in the open the British was 
superior ; but decidedly inferior for an attack upon the 
American at anchor. This was the opinion of the sur- 
viving British officers, under oath, and of Downie. Gen- 
eral Izard, who had been in command at Plattsburg up to 
a fortnight before the attack, wrote afterwards to the Sec- 
retary of War, "I may venture to assert that without the 
works, Fort Moreau and its dependencies. Captain Mac- 
donough would not have ventured to await the enemy's 
attack in Plattsburg Bay, but would have retired to the 
upper part of Lake Champlain." ^ The whole campaign 
turning upon naval control, the situation was eminently 
one that called upon the army to drive the enemy 
from his anchorage. The judgment of the author en- 
dorses the words of Sir James Yeo : " There was not the 
least necessity for our squadron giving the enemy such de- 
cided advantages by going into their bay to engage them. 
Even had they been successful, it could not in the least 

1 Izard's Correspondence, p. 98. 


have assisted the troops in storming the batteries ; whereas, 
bad our troops taken their batteries first, it would have 
obliged the enemy's squadron to quit the bay and given 
ours a fair chance." ^ At the Court Martial two witnesses, 
Lieutenant Drew of the " Linnet," and Brydone, master of 
the "Confiance," swore that after the action Macdonough 
removed his squadron to Crab Island, out of range of the 
batteries. Macdonough in his report does not mention 
this ; nor was it necessary that he should. 

In short, though apparently so near, the two fractions of 
the American force, the army and the navy, were actually 
in the dangerous military condition of being exposed to 
be beaten in detail; and the destruction of either would 
probably be fatal to the other. The largest two British 
vessels, " Confiance " and " Linnet," were sUghtly inferior 
to the American "Saratoga" and "Eagle" in agg^gate 
weight of broadside; but, like the "General Pike" on 
Ontario in 1813, the superiority of the " Confiance " in 
long guns, and under one captain, would on the open lake 
have made her practically equal to cope with the whole 
American squadron, and stiU more with the " Saratoga " 
alone, assuming that the " Linnet " gave the " Eagle " some 

It would seem clear, therefore, that the true combination 
for the British general would have been to use his military 
superiority, vast in quahty as in numbers, to reduce the 
works and garrison at Plattsburg. That accomplished, 
the squadron would be driven to the open lake, where 
the "Confiance" could bring into play her real superi- 
ority, instead of being compelled to sacrifice it by attack- 
ing vessels in a carefully chosen position, ranged with a 
seaman's eye for defence, and prepared with a seaman's 
foresight for every contingency. Prevost, however, be- 

1 Yeo to the Admiraltj, Sept. 24, 1814. From a copy in the Court Mar^ 
tial Record. 

372 THE WAR OF 1812 

came possessed with the idea that a joint attack was 
indispensable,^ and in communicating his purpose to the 
commander of the squadron, Captain Downie, he used lan- 
guage indefensible in itself, tending to goad a sensitive 
man into action contrary to his better judgment ; and he 
clenched this injudicious proceeding with words which 
certainly implied an assurance of assault by the army on 
the works, simultaneous with that of the navy on the 

Captain Downie had taken command of the Champlain 
fleet only on September 2. He was next in rank to Yeo 
on the lakes, a circumstance that warranted his orders ; the 
immediate reason for which, however, as explained by Yeo 
to the Admiralty, was that his predecessor's temper had 
shown him unfit for chief command. He had quarrelled 
with Pring, and Yeo felt the change essential. Downie, 
upon arrival, found the " Confiance " in a very incomplete 
state, for which he at least was in no wise responsible. 
He had brought with him a first lieutenant in whom he 
had merited confidence, and the two worked diligently to 
get her into shape. The crew had been assembled hurriedly 
by draughts from several ships at Quebec, from the 39th 
regiment, and from the marine artillery. The last detach- 
ment came on board the night but one before the battle. 
They thus were unknown by face to their officers, and 
largely to one another. Launched August 25, the ship 
hauled from the wharf into the stream September 7, and 
the same day started for the front, being towed by boats 
against a head wind and downward current. Behind her 
dragged a batteau carrying her powder, while her magazine 
was being finished. 

1 In his Narrative, submitted to the Court Martial, Captain Pring stated 
that Prevost wished a joint attack, because, in the advance along the head of 
Cumberland Bay, the left flank of the array, when crossing Dead Creek, had 
been mucli annoyed by the American gunboats. He feared the same in cross- 
ing the Saranac to the assault of the works, and wanted the navy to draw off 
the gunboats. 


The next day a similar painful advance was made, and 
the crew then were stationed at the guns, while the me- 
chanics labored at their fittings. That night she anchored 
off Chazy, where the whole squadron was now gathered. 
The 9th was spent at anchor, exercising the guns ; the me- 
chanics still at work. In fact, the hammering and driving 
continued until two hours before the ship came under fire, 
when the last gang shoved off, leaving her still unfinished. 
" This day " — the 9th — wrot« the first lieutenant, Robert- 
son, "employed setting-up rigging, scraping decks, man- 
ning and arranging the gunboats. Exercised at great 
guns. Artificers employed fitting beds, coins, belaying 
pins, etc ; " ^ — essentials for fighting the guns and work- 
ing the sails. It scarcely needs the habit of a naval sea- 
man to recognize that even three or four days' grace for 
preparation would immensely increase efficiency. Never- 
theless, such was the pressure from without that the order 
was given for the squadron to go into action next day; 
and this was prevented only by a strong head wind, 
against which there was not channel space to beat. 

As long as Prevost was contending with the difficulties 
of his o\\Ti advance he seems not to have worried Downie ; 
but as soon as fairly before the works of Plattsburg he in- 
itiated a correspondence, which on his part became increas- 
ingly peremptory. It will be remembered that he not only 
was much the senior in rank, — as in years, — but also 
Governor-General of Canada. Nor should it be forgotten 
that he had known and written a month before that the 
" Confiance " could not be ready before September 15. He 
knew, as his subsequent action showed, that if the British 
fleet were disabled his own progress was hopeless ; and, if 
he could not understand that to a ship so lately afloat a 
day was worth a week of ordinary conditions, he should at 
least have realized that the naval captain could judge better 

1 Bobertson's Narrative before the Court Martial. 

374 THE WAR OF 1812 

than he when she was ready for battle. On September 7 
he wrote to urge Do^\Tiie, who replied the same day with 
assurances of every exertion to hasten matters. The 8th 
he sent information of Macdonough's arrangements by an 
aid, who carried also a letter saying that " it is of the high- 
est importance that the ships, vessels, and gunboats, under 
your command, should combine a co-operation with the 
division of the army under my command. I only wait for 
your arrival to proceed against General Macomb's last posi- 
tion on the south bank of the Saranac." On the 9th he 
wrote, " In consequence of your communication of yester- 
day I have postponed action until your squadron is pre- 
pared to co-operate. I need not dwell with you on the 
evils resulting to both services from delay." He inclosed 
reports received from deserters that the American fleet was 
insufficiently manned ; and that when the " Eagle " arrived, 
a few days before, they had swept the guard houses of pris- 
oners to complete her crew, A postscript conveyed a 
scarcely veiled intimation that an eye was kept on his 
proceedings. " Captain Watson of the provincial cavalry 
is directed to remain at Little Chazy until you are prepar- 
ing to get underway, when he is instructed to return to this 
place with the intelligence." ^ 

Thus pressed, Downie, as has been said, gave orders to 
sail at midnight, with the expectation of rounding into 
Plattsburg Bay about dawn, and proceeding to an imme- 
diate attack. This purpose was communicated formally to 
Prevost. The preventing cause, the head wind, was obvi- 
ous enough, and spoke for itself ; but the check drew from 
Prevost words which stung Downie to the quick. "In 
consequence of your letter the troops have been held in 
readiness, since six o'clock this morning, to storm the ene- 
my's works at nearly the same moment as the naval action 

^ The correspondence between Prevost and Downie, Sept. 7-10, is in the 
Canadian Archives, M. 389.6. pp. 176-183. 


begins in the bay. I ascribe the disappointment I have 
experienced to the unforiiunate change of wind, and shall 
rejoice to learn that my reasonable expectations have been 
frustrated by no other cause." The letter was sent by the 
aid, ^lajor Coore, who had carried the others ; and both he 
and Pring, who were present, testified to the effect upon 
Downie. Coore, in a vindication of Prevost, wrote, " After 
perusing it, Captain Downie said with some warmth, ' I am 
surprised Sir George Prevost should think necessary to 
urge me upon this subject. He must feel I am as desirous 
of proceeding to active operations as he can be ; but I am 
responsible for the squadron, and no man shall make me 
lead it into action before I consider it in fit condition.' " ^ 
Nevertheless, the effect was produced; for he remarked 
afterward to Pring, " This letter does not deserve an an- 
swer, but I will convince him that the naval force will not 
be backward in their share of the attack." ^ 

It was arranged that the approach of the squadron should 
be signalled by scaling the guns, — firing cartridges with- 
out shot ; and Downie certainly understood, and infonned 
his officers generally, that the army would assault in co- 
operation with the attack of the fleet. The precise nature 
of his expectation was clearly conveyed to Pring, who had 
represented the gravity of this undertaking. " When the 
batteries are stormed and taken possession of by the British 
land forces, which the commander of the land forces has 
promised to do at the moment the naval action commences, 
the enemy will be obliged to quit their position, whereby 
we shall obtain decided advantage over them during their 
confusion. I would otherwise prefer fighting them on the 
lake, and would wait until our force is in an efficient state ; 
but I fear they would take shelter up the lake and would 

1 This letter of Major Coore, pablished in a Canadian paper, Feb. 26. 
1815, is to be found in the Canadian Archives MSS., M. 389.6. p. 287. 

2 Court Martial Evidence. 

376 THE WAR OF 1812 

not meet me on equal terms." ^ The following morning, 
September 11, the wind being fair from northeast, the 
British fleet weighed before daylight and stood up the nar- 
rows for the open lake and Plattsburg Bay. About five 
o'clock the agreed signal was given by scaling the guns, 
the reports of which it was presumed must certainly be 
heard by the army at the then distance of six or seven 
miles, with the favorable air blowing. At 7.30, near Cum- 
berland Head, the squadron hove-to, and Captain Downie 
went ahead in a boat to reconnoitre the American position. 

For defence against the hostile squadron, Macdonough 
had had to rely solely on his own force, and its wise dis- 
position by him. On shore, a defensive position is de- 
termined by the circumstances of the ground selected, 
improved by fortification; all which gives strength addi- 
tional to the number of men. A sailing squadron anchored 
for defence similarly gained force by adapting its formation 
to the circumstances of the anchorage, and to known wind 
conditions, with careful preparations to turn the guns in 
any direction; deliberate precautions, not possible to the 
same extent to the assailant anchoring under fire. To this 
is to be added the release of the crew from working sails 
to manning "the guns. 

Plattsburg Bay, in which the United States squadron 
was anchored, is two miles wide, and two long. It lies 
north and south, open to the southward. Its eastern boun- 
dary is called Cumberland Head. The British vessels, 
starting from below, in a channel too narrow to beat, must 
come up with a north wind. To insure that this should be 
ahead, or bring them close on the wind, after rounding the 
Head, — a condition unfavorable for attack, — Macdonough 
fixed the head of his line as far north as was safe ; having 
in mind that the enemy might bring guns to the shore 

1 Evidence of Pring, and of Brydone, master of the " Coiifiance," before 
the Court Martial. Kobertson in his narrative is equally positive and explicit 
on this point. 

4. Fort Mortal! 

B. Fart Brown 

C. Fort Scott 
Uo.\.B/ock House 
No.2. " '• 

Na3. ExcivatioB for a Block House 

D. Stores 

The Cand H in broken outline andm'tk 
dotted tracks show the course and posi- 
tions intended for the Con fiance and 
Chub, which they were unable to effect. 

British Batteries 
No. I . J Guns and I Howitzer 
No.2. Pocket Battery 
Ho.i. Mortar Battery 
Na4. 3 Guns throwing Shrapnels Shells 
Ho.b.4 Guns IS Pounders and Racket Battery 
No.6. 3 Heavy Guns and Hockets 
No. 7. Heai/y Guns to keep off the Galleys 
No.8. - " " " " 

a. a. a. British Camps 



north of the Saranac. His order thence extended south- 
ward, abreast of the American works, and somewhat nearer 
the Cumberland than the Plattsburg side. The wind con- 
ditions further made it expedient to put the strongest 
vessels to the northward, — to windward, — whence they 
would best be able to manoeuvre as circumstances might 
require. The order from north to south therefore was: 
the brig "Eagle," twenty guns; the ship "Saratoga," 
twenty-six; the " Ticonderoga " schooner, seven, and the 
sloop " Preble," seven. 

Macdonough's dispositions being perfectly under obser- 
vation. Captain Downie framed his plan accordingly.^ The 
" Confiance " should engage the " Saratoga ; " but, before 
doing so, would pass along the "Eagle," from north to south, 
give her a broadside, and then anchor head and stern across 
the bo\vs of the "Saratoga." After this, the "Linnet," 
supported by the " Chub," would become the opponent of 
the "Eagle," reduced more nearly to equality by the 
punishment already received. Three British vessels would 
thus grapple the two strongest enemies. The "Finch" 
was to attack the American rear, supported by all the Brit- 
ish gunboats — eleven in number. There were American 
gunboats, or galleys, as well, which Macdonough dis- 
tributed in groups, inshore of his order; but, as was 
almost invariably the case, these light vessels exerted no 
influence on the result. 

This being the plan, when the wind came northeast on 
the morning of September 11, the British stood up the lake 
in column, as follows : " Finch," " Confiance," " Linnet," 
"Chub." Thus, when they rounded Cumberland Head, 
and simultaneously changed course towards the American 
line, they would be properly disposed to reach the several 
places assigned. As the vessels came round the Head, 
to Downie's dismay no co-operation by the army was visible. 

^ Robertson's Narrative. 

378 THE WAR OF 1812 

He was fairly committed to his movement, however, and 
could only persist. As the initial act was to be the attack 
upon the " Eagle " by the " Confiance," she led in advance of 
her consorts, which caused a concentmtion of the hostile 
guns upon her; the result being that she was unable to 
carry out her part. The wind also failed, and she eventu- 
ally anchored five hundred yards from the American line. 
Her first broadside is said to have struck down forty, or 
one fifth of the " Saratoga's " crew. As in the case of the 
"Chesapeake," this shows men of naval training, accus- 
tomed to guns ; but, as with the " Chesapeake," lack of 
organization, of the habit of working together, officers and 
men, was to tell ere the end. Fifteen minutes after the 
action began Captain Downie was killed, leaving in com- 
mand Lieutenant Robertson. 

The " Linnet " reached her berth and engaged the 
"Eagle" closely; but the "Chub," which was to support 
her, received much damage to her sails and rigging, and the 
lieutenant in charge was nervously prostrated by a not very 
severe wound. Instead of anchoring, she was permitted to 
drift helplessly, and so passed through the American order, 
where she hauled down her colors. Though thus dis- 
appointed of the assistance intended for her, the " Linnet " 
continued to fight manfully and successfully, her opponent 
finally quitting the line; a result to which the forward 
battery of the " Confiance " in large measure contributed.^ 
The " Finch," by an error of judgment on the part of her 
commander, did not keep near enough to the wind. She 
therefore failed to reach her position, near the " Ticonde- 
roga;" and the breeze afterwards falling, she could not 
retrieve her error. Ultimately, she went ashore on Crab 
Island, a mile to the southward. This remoteness enabled 
her to keep her flag flying till her consorts had surrendered ; 
but the credit of being last to strike belongs really to the 

1 Robertson's Narrative. 


" Linnet," Captain Pring. By the failure of the " Finch," 
the " Ticonderoga " underwent no attack except by the 
British gunboats. Whatever might possibly have come of 
this was frustrated by the misbehavior of most of them. 
Four fought with great gallantry and persistence, eliciting 
much admiration from their opponents ; but the remainder 
kept at distance, the commander of the whole actually run- 
ning away, and absconding afterwards to avoid trial. The 
" Ticonderoga " maintained her position to the end ; but 
the weak " Preble " was forced from her anchors, and ran 
ashore under the Plattsburg batteries. 

The fight thus resolved itself into a contest between the 
" Saratoga " and " Eagle," on one side, the " Confiance " 
and " Linnet " on the other. The wind being north-north- 
east, the ships at their anchors headed so that the forward 
third of the " Confiance's " battery bore upon the " Eagle," 
and only the remaining two thirds upon the " Saratoga." 
This much equalized conditions all round. It was nine 
o'clock when she anchored. At 10.30 the " Eagle," having 
many of her guns on the engaged side disabled, cut her 
cable, ran down the line, and placed herself south of the 
" Saratoga," anchoring by the stem. This had the effect of 
turning towards the enemy her other side, the guns of 
which were still uninjured. " In this new position," wrote 
Lieutenant Robertson, "she kept up a destructive fire on 
the " Confiance," without being exposed to a shot from that 
ship or the " Linnet." On the other hand, Macdonough 
found the " Saratoga " suffer from the " Linnet," now re- 
lieved of her immediate opponent.^ 

By this time the fire of both the " Saratoga " and " Con- 
fiance" had materially slackened, owing to the havoc 
among guns and men. Nearly the whole battery on the 
starboard side of the United States sliip was dismounted, or 
otherwise unserviceable. The only resource was to bring 

* Macdonough's Report. 

380 THE WAR OF 1812 

the uninjured side towards the enemy, as the " Eagle " had 
just done ; but to use the same method, getting under way, 
would be to abandon the fight, for there was not astern 
another position of usefulness for the " Saratoga." There 
was nothing for it but to " wind " ^ the ship — turn her 
round where she was. Then appeared the advantage at- 
tendant upon the defensive, if deliberately utilized. The 
" Confiance " standing in had had shot away, one after an- 
other, the anchors and ropes upon which she depended for 
such a manceuvre.2 The " Saratoga's " resources were un- 
impaired. A stern anchor was let go, the bow cable cut, and 
the ship winded, either by force of the wind, or by the use 
of " springs " ^ before prepared, presenting to the " Confi- 
ance" her uninjured broadside — for fighting purposes a 
new vessel. The British ship, having now but four guns 
that could be used on the side engaged,* must do the like, or 
be hopelessly overmatched. The stern anchor prepared hav- 
ing been shot away, an effort was made to swing her by a 
new spring on the bow cable ; but while this slow process 
was carrying on, and the ship so far turned as to be at right 
angles with the American line, a raking shot entered, kill- 
ing and wounding several of the crew. Then, reported 
Lieutenant Robertson, the surviving officer in command, 
" the ship's company declared they would stand no longer 
to their quarters, nor could the officers with their utmost 
exertions rally them." The vessel was in a sinking con- 
dition, kept afloat by giving her a marked heel to star- 
board, by running in the guns on the port side, so as to 
bring the shot holes out of water .^ The wounded on the 
deck below had to be continually moved, lest they should 
be drowned where they lay. She drew but eight and a half 

1 Pronounced " wynd." ^ Robertson's Narrative. 

8 A spring is a rope taken from the stern of a ship to the anciior, by haul- 
ing on which the ship is turned in the direction desired. 
* Brydone's Evidence. 
6 Evidence of Sailing Master Brydone. 

Draim by Henry ReuierdaM. 


feet of water. Her colors were struck at about 11 a.m. ; 
the " Linnet's" fifteen minutes later. By ^Macdonough's re- 
port, the action had. lasted two hours and twenty minutes, 
without intermission. 

Few combats have been more resolutely contested. The 
*' Saratoga " had fifty-five round shot in her hull ; the 
"Confiance," one hundred and five.^ Of the American 
crew of two hundred and ten men, twenty-eight were killed 
and twenty-niue wounded. The British loss is not known 
exactly. Robertson reported that there were thirty-eight 
bodies sent ashore for interment, besides those thrown over- 
board in action. This points to a loss of about fifty killed, 
and James states the wounded at about sixty; the total 
was certainly more than one hundred in a ship's company 
of two hundred and seventy. 

There was reason for obstinacy, additional to the natural 
resolution of the parties engaged. The battle of Lake 
Champlain, more nearly than any other incident of the War 
of 1812, merits the epithet " decisive." The moment the 
issue was known, Prevost retreated into Canada ; entirely 
properly, as indicated by the Duke of Wellington's words 
before and after. His previous conduct was open to cen- 
sure, for he had used towards Captain Downie urgency of 
pressure which induced that officer to engage prematurely ; 
" goaded " iuto action, as Yeo wrote. Before the usual naval 
Court Martial, the officers sworn testified that Downie 
had been led to expect co-operation, which in their judg- 
ment would have reversed the issue ; but that no proper 
assault was made. Charges were preferred, and Prevost 
was summoned home; but he died before trial. There 
remains therefore no sworn testimony on bis side, nor was 
there any adequate cross-examination of the naval wit- 
nesses. In the judgment of the writer, it was incumbent 
upon Prevost to assault the works when Downie was 

1 Macdonoagh's Report. 

382 THE WAR OF 1812 

known to be approaching, with a fair wind, in the hope of 
driving the American squadron from its anchors to the 
open lake, where the real superiority of the British could 
assert itself.^ 

Castlereagh's " chances of the campaign " had gone so 
decidedly against the British that no ground was left to 
claim territorial adjustments. To effect these the war 
must be continued; and for this Great Britain was not 
prepared, nor could she afford the necessary detachment of 
force. In the completeness of Napoleon's downfall, we 
now are prone to forget that remaining political conditions 
in Europe still required all the Great Powers to keep their 
arms at hand. 

The war was practically ended by Prevost's retreat. 
What remained was purely episodical in character, and 
should be so regarded. Nevertheless, although without 
effect upon the issue, and indeed in great part transacted 
after peace had been actually signed, it is so directly con- 
secutive with the war as to require united treatment. 

Very soon after reaching Bermuda, Vice-Admiral Coch- 
rane, in pursuance of the " confidential communications with 
which he was charged," the character of which, he intimated 
to Warren,^ was a reason for expediting the transfer of the 

1 For the battle of Lake Champlain much the most complete and satis- 
factory evidence is the Record of the British Court Martial. There having 
been no dispute on the American side, as between Perry and Elliott at Lake 
Erie, there has not been the same output of conflicting statements, tending to 
elucidate as well as to confuse. Commander Henley of the " Eagle " was 
apparently dissatisfied with Macdonough's report, as the Commodore (appar- 
ently) was with his action. This drew from him a special report. Navy 
Department MSS. Niles' Register, vol. vii. Supplement, p. 135, contains this 
letter with many verbal changes, which do not materially affect its purport. 

2 Cochrane arrived at Bermuda March 6 ; but, despite liis urgency and 
evident annoyance, Warren, who was senior, and had had ample notice of his 
supersession, took his own leisurely time about giving over the command, 
which he did not do till April 1, sailing for England April 8. 


command, despatched the frigate "Orpheus" to the Ap- 
palachicola River to negotiate with the Creek and other 
Indians. The object was to rouse and arm "our Indian 
allies in the Southern States," and to armnge with them a 
system of training by British officers, and a general plan of 
action ; by which, " suppoiiing the Indian tribes situated on 
the confines of Florida, and in the back parts of Georgia, it 
would be easy to reduce New Orleans, and to distress the 
enemy very seriously in the neighboring provinces." ^ 

The " Orpheus " arrived at the mouth of the Appalachi- 
cola May 10, 1814, and on the 20th her captain, Pigot, had 
an interview with the principal Creek chiefs. He found ^ 
that the feeling of their people was very strong against the 
Americans ; and from the best attainable information he esti- 
mated that twenty-eight hundi-ed warriors were ready to take 
up arms with the British. There were said to be as many 
more Choctaws thus disposed ; and perhaps a thousand other 
Indians, then dispersed and unarmed, could be collected. 
The negroes of Georgia would probably also come over in 
crowds, once the movement started. With a suitable num- 
ber of British subalterns and drill sergeants, the savages 
could be fitted to act in concert with British troops in eight 
or ten weeks ; for they were already familiar with the use of 
fire-arms, and were moreover good horsemen. The season 
of the year being still so early, there was ample time for the 
necessary training. With these preparations, and adequate 
supplies of arms and militaiy stores, Pigot thought that a 
handful of British troops, co-operating with the Creeks and 
Choctaws, could get possession of Baton Rouge, from which 
New Orleans and the lower Mississippi would be an easy 
conquest. Between Pensacola, still in the possession of 
Spain, and New Orleans, Mobile was the only post held by 

1 Bathnrst to Ross, Sept. 6, 1814. War Office, Entrv Book. 
" Pigot 's Report to Cochrane, June 8, 1814. Admiralty In-Letteis 

384 THE WAR OF 1812 

the United States. In its fort were two hundred troops, 
and in those up country not more than seven hundred. 

When transmitting this letter, which, with his own of 
June 20, was received at the Admiralty August 8, Cochrane 
endorsed most of Pigot's recommendations. He gave as his 
own estimate, that to drive the Americans entirely out of 
Louisiana and the Floridas would require not more than 
three thousand British troops; to be landed at Mobile, 
where they would be joined by aU the Indians and the 
disaffected French and Spaniards.^ In this calculation 
reappears the perennial error of relying upon disaffected 
inhabitants, as well as savages. Disaffection must be sup- 
ported by intolerable conditions, before inhabitants will 
stake all ; not merely the chance of life, but the certainty of 
losing property, if unsuccessful. Cochrane took the further 
practical step of sending at once such arms and ammuni- 
tion as the fleet could spare, together with four officers 
and one hundred and eight non-commissioned officers and 
privates of the marine corps, to train the Indians. These 
were all under the command of Major Nicholls, who for this 
service was given the local rank of Colonel. The whole 
were despatched July 23, in the naval vessels " Hermes " 
and " Carron," for the Appalachicola. The Admiral, while 
contemplating evidently a progress towards Baton Rouge, 
looked also to coastwise operations ; for he asked the 
Government to furnish him vessels of light draught, to carry 
heavy guns into Lake Ponchartrain, and to navigate the 
shoal water between it and Mobile, now called Mississippi 

The Admiralty in reply ^ reminded Cochrane of the 

1 Cochrane to the Admiralty, June 20, 1814. Admiralty In-Lctters MSS. 

2 Admiralty to Cochrane, Aug. 10, 1814. The reference in the text 
depends upon a long paper near the end of vol. 39, British War Oifice 
Records, wliich appears to the writer to have been drawn up for the use of 
the ministry in parliamentary debate. It gives step by step the procedure of 
the GoTernment in entering on the New Orleans undertaking. 


former purpose of the Government to direct operations 
against Xew Orleans, with a very large force under Lord 
Hill, Wellington's second in the Peninsular War. Cir- 
cumstances had made it inexpedient to send so many troops 
from Europe at this moment ; but, in view of the Admiral's 
recommendation, General Ross would be directed to co- 
operate in the intended movement at the proper season, and 
his corps would be raised to six thousand men, independent 
of such help in seamen and marines as the fleet might 
afford. The re-enforcements would be sent to Negril Bay, 
at the west end of Jamaica, which was made the general 
rendezvous; and there Cochrane and Ross were directed 
to join not later than November 20. The purpose of the 
Government in attempting the enterprise was stated to be 
twofold. "First, to obtain command of the embouchure 
of the Mississippi, so as to deprive the back settlements of 
America of their communication with the sea ; and, secondly, 
to occupy some important and valuable possession, by the 
restoration of which the conditions of peace might be im- 
proved, or which we might be entitled to exact the cession 
of, as the price of peace." Entire discretion was left with 
the two commanders as to the method of proceeding, whether 
directly against New Orleans, by water, or to its rear, by 
land, through the country of the Creeks ; and they were at 
liberty to abandon the undertaking in favor of some other, 
should that course seem more suitable. When news of the 
capture of Washington was received, two thousand addi- 
tional troops were sent to Bermuda, under the impression that 
the General might desire to push his success on the Atlantic 
coast. These ultimately joined the expedition two days 
before the attack on Jackson's lines. Upon the death of 
General Ross, Sir Edward Pakenham was ordered to 
replace him ; but he did not arrive until after the landing, 
and had therefore no voice in determining the general line 
of operations adopted. 

VOL. II. — 23 

386 THE WAR OF 1812 

These were the militar}- instructions. To them were 
added certain others, political in character, dictated mainly 
by the disturbed state of Europe, and with an eye to appease 
the jealousies existing among the Powers, which extended 
to American conditions, colonial and commercial. While 
united against Napoleon, they viewed with distrust the 
aggrandizement of Great Britain. Ross was ordered, there- 
fore, to discountenance any overture of the inhabitants 
to place themselves under British dominion ; but should he 
find a general and decided disposition to withdraw from 
their recent connection with the United States, with the view 
of establishing themselves as an independent people, or of 
returning under the dominion of Spain, from which they 
then had been separated less than twenty years, he was to 
give them every support in his power. He must make 
them clearly understand, however, that in the peace with 
the United States neither independence nor restoration to 
Spain could be made a sine qud no7i ; ^ there being about 
that a finality, of which the Government had already been 
warned in the then current negotiations with the American 
commissioners. These instructions to Ross were communi- 
cated to Lord Castlereagh at Vienna, to use as might be 
expedient in the discussions of the Conference. 

No serious attempt was made in the direction of Baton 
Rouge, through the back countries of Georgia and Florida ; 
nor does there appear any result of consequence from the 
mission of Colonel NichoUs. On September 17 the 
" Hermes " and " Carron," supported by two brigs of war, 
made an attack upon Fort Bowyer, a work of logs and sand 
commanding the entrance to Mobile Bay. After a severe 
cannonade, lasting between two and three hours, they were 
repulsed ; and the " Hermes," running aground, was set on 
fire by her captain to prevent her falling into the hands of 
the enemy. Mobile was thus preserved from becoming the 

1 Bathurst to Ross, Sept. 6, 1814. British War Office Records. 


starting point of the expedition, as suggested by Cochrane ; 
and that this object underlay the attempt may be inferred 
from the finding of the Court Martial upon Captain Percy 
of the " Hermes," which decided that the attack was per- 
fectly justified by the circumstances stated at the tiial.^ 

In October, 1810, by executive proclamation of President 
INIadison, the United States had taken possession of the 
region between Louisiana and the River Perdido,^ being the 
greater part of what was then known as West Florida. 
The Spanish troops occupying Mobile, however, were not 
then disturbed ; ^ nor was there a military occupation, 
except of one almost uninhabited spot near Bay St. 
Louis.* This intervention was justified on the ground of 
a claim to the territory', asserted to be valid ; and occasion 
for it was found in the danger of a foreign interference, 
resulting from the subversion of Spanish authority by a 
revolutionary movement. By Great Britain it was regarded 
as a usurpation, to effect which advantage had been taken 
of the embarrassment of the Spaniards when struggling 
against Xapoleon for national existence. On May 14, 1812, 
being then on the verge of war with Great Britain, the ally 
of Spain, an Act of Congress declared the whole country 
annexed, and extended over it the jurisdiction of the 
United States. ^lobile was occupied April 15, 1813. Pen- 
sacola, east of the Perdido, but close to it, remained in 
the hands of Spain, and was used as a base of operations 
by the British fleet, both before and after the attack of 
the " Hermes " and her consorts upon Fort Bowj^er. From 
there Nicholls announced that he had arrived in the Flor- 
idas for the purpose of annoying " the only enemy Great 
Britain has in the world " ^ ; and Captain Percy thence in- 
vited the pirates of Barataria to join the British cause. 

1 Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxiii. p. 429. 

' American State Papers, Foreign Relations, voL ilL p. 397. 

» Ibid., p. 572. 

* Niles' Register, vol. iii. p. 182. * Ibid., vol. vii. pp. 133-135. 

388 THE WAR OF 1812 

Cochrane also informed the Admiralty that for quicker 
communication, while operating in the Gulf, he intended 
to establish a system of couriers through Florida, between 
Amelia Island and Pensacola, both imder Spanish juris- 
diction.i On the score of neutrality, therefore, fault can 
scarcely be found with General Jackson for assaulting the 
latter, which surrendered to him November 7. The Brit- 
ish vessels departed, and the works were blown up ; after 
which the place was restored to the Spaniards. 

In acknowledging the Admiralty's letter of August 10, 
Cochrane said that the diminution of numbers from those 
intended for Lord Hill would not affect his plans ; that, 
unless the United States had sent very great re-enforce- 
ments to Louisiana, the troops now to be employed were 
perfectly adequate, even without the marines. These he 
intended to send under Rear-Admiral Cockburn, to effect 
a diversion by occupying Cumberland Island, off the south 
coast of Georgia, about November 10, whence the opera- 
tions would be extended to the mainland. It was hoped 
this would draw to the coast the American force employed 
against the Indians, and so favor the movements in Louisi- 
ana.2 While not expressly stated, the inference seems 
probable that Cochrane still — October 3 — expected to 
land at Mobile. For some reason Cockburn's attack on 
Cumberland Island did not occur until January 12, when 
the New Orleans business was already concluded ; so that, 
although successful, and prosecuted further to the seacoast, 
it had no influence upon the general issues. 

Cochrane, with the division from the Atlantic coast, joined 
the re-enforcements from England in Negril Bay, and 
thence proceeded to Mississippi Sound ; anchoring off Ship 
Island, December 8. On the 2d General Jackson had 
arrived in New Orleans, whither had been ordered a large 

1 Cochrane to the Admiralty, Oct. 3, 1814. Admiralty In-Letters. 

2 Ibid. 


part of the troops heretofore acting against the Creeks. 
The British commanders had now determined definitely 
to attack the city from the side of the sea. As there could 
be little hope for vessels dependent upon sails to pass 
the forts on the lower Mississippi, against the strong cur- 
rent, as was done by Farragut's steamers fifty years later, 
it was decided to reach the river far above those works, 
passing the army through some of the numerous bayous 
which intersect the swampy delta to the eastward. From 
Ship Island this desired approach could be made through 
Lake Borgne. 

For the defence of these waters there were stationed 
five American gunboats and two or three smaller craft, 
the whole under command of Lieutenant Thomas ap 
Catesby Jones. As even the lighter Biitish ships of war 
could not here navigate, on account of the shoalness, and 
the troops, to reach the place of debarkation, the Bayou 
des Pgcheurs, at the head of Lake Borgne, must go sixty 
miles in open boats, the hostile gun vessels had first to be 
disposed of. Jones, who from an advanced position had 
been watching the enemy's proceedings in Mississippi 
Sound, decided December 12 that their numbers had so 
increased as to make remaining hazardous. He therefore 
retired, both to secure his retreat and to cause the boats of 
the fleet a longer and more harassing pull to overtake him. 
The movement was none too soon, for that night the 
British barges and armed boats left the fleet in pursuit. 
Jones was not able to get as far as he wished, on account 
of failure of wind ; but nevertheless on the 13th the enemy 
did not come up with him. During the night he made 
an attempt at further withdrawal; but calm continuing, 
and a strong ebb-tide running, he was compelled again to 
anchor at 1 A. M. of the 14th, and prepared for battle. His 
five gunboats, with one light schooner, were ranged in 
Hne across the channel way, taking the usual precautions 

390 THE WAR OF 1812 

of springs on their cables and boarding nettings triced up. 
Unluckily for the solidity of his order, the current set 
two of the gunboats, one being his own, some distance to 
the eastward, — in advance of the others. 

At daylight the British flotilla was seen nine miles dis- 
tant, at anchor. By Jones' count it comprised forty-two 
launches and three light gigs.^ They soon after weighed 
and pulled towards the gunboats. At ten, being within 
long gunshot, they again anchored for breakfast; after 
which they once more took to the oars. An hour later 
they closed with their opponents. The British commander, 
Captain Lockyer, threw his own boat, together with a 
half-dozen others, upon Jones' vessel, " Number 156," ^ and 
carried her after a sharp struggle of about twenty minutes, 
during which both Lockyer and Jones were severely 
wounded. Her guns were then turned against her late 
comrades, in support of the British boarders, and at the 
end of another half-hour, at 12.40 P. M., the last of them 

That this affair was very gallantly contested on both 
sides is sufficiently shown by the extent of the British 
loss — seventeen killed and seventy-seven wounded.^ They 
were of course in much larger numbers than the Americans. 
No such attempt should be made except with this advan- 
tage, and the superiority should be as great as is permitted 
by the force at the disposal of the assailant. 

This obstacle to the movement of the troops being re- 
moved, debarkation began at the mouth of the Bayou des 

1 Neither Cochrane nor Lockyer gives the number of the British boats ; 
but as there were three divisions, drawn from five ships of the line and three 
or four frigates, besides smaller vessels, Jones' count was probably accurate. 
He had ample time to observe. 

2 The gunboats of Jefferson's building had no names, and were distin- 
guished by number only. 

8 Jones' Report of this affair is found in Niles' Register, vol. viii. p. 126 ; 
those of Cochrane and Lockyer in the Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxiii. pp. 337- 


Pecheurs ; ^ whence the British, undiscovered during their 
progress, succeeded in penetrating by the Bayou Bien- 
venu and its tributaries to a point on the Mississippi eight 
miles below New Orleans. The advance corps, sixteen 
hundred strong, arrived there at noon, December 23, ac- 
companied by Major-General Keane, as yet in command of 
the whole army. The news reached Jackson two hours 

Fresh from the experiences of Washington and Balti- 
more, the British troops flattered themselves with the cer- 
tainty of a quiet night. The Americans, they said to each 
other, have never dared to attack. At 7.30, however, a 
vessel dropped her anchor abreast them, and a voice was 
heard, " Give them this for the honor of America ! " The 
words were followed by the discharge of her battery, which 
swept through the camp. Without artillery to reply, hav- 
ing but two light field guns, while the assailant — the naval 
schooner " Caroline," Lieut. J. D. Henley — had anchored 
out of musket range, the invaders, suffering heavily, were 
driven to seek shelter behind the levee, where they lay for 
nearly an hour.^ At the end of this, a dropping fire was 
heard from above and inland. Jackson, with sound judg- 
ment and characteristic energy, had decided to attack at 
once, although, by his own report, he could as yet muster 
only fifteen hundred men, of whom but six hundred were 
regulars. A confused and desperate night action followed, 
the men on both sides fighting singly or in groups, ignorant 
often whether those before them were friends or foes. The 
Americans eventually withdrew, carrying %vith them sixty- 
six prisoners. Their loss in killed and wounded was one 

^ So styled in Cochrane's Report, which also speaks of it as Bajoa Cata- 
lan. The name does not appear on the map of Major Laconr, chief of 
engineers to Jackson, who in his report calls the whole bavou Bienvenu. 

2 Gleig, Narrative of the Campaign of Washington, Baltimore, and New 
Orleans, pp. 282-288. 

392 THE WAR OF 1812 

hundred and thirty-nine ; that of the British, two hundred 
and thirteen. 

The noise of this rencounter hastened the remainder of 
the British army, and by the night of December 24 the 
whole were on the ground. Meantime, the " Caroline " 
had been joined by the ship " Louisiana," which anchored 
nearly a mile above her. In her came Commodore Patter- 
son, in chief naval command. The presence of the two 
impelled the enemy to a slight retrograde movement, out of 
range of their artillery. The next morning, Christmas, Sir 
Edward Pakenham arrived from England. A pers&nal 
examination satisfied him that only by a reconnaissance in 
force could he ascertain the American strength and prepa- 
rations, and that, as a preliminary to such attempt, the ves- 
sels whose guns swept the line of advance must be driven 
off. On the 26th the " Caroline " tried to get up stream to 
Jackson's camp, but could not against a strong head wind ; 
and on the 27th the British were able to burn her with hot 
shot. The " Louisiana " succeeded in shifting her place, 
and thenceforth lay on the west bank of the stream, abreast 
of and flanking the entrenchments behind which Jackson 
was estabhshed. 

These obstacles gone, Pakenham made his reconnais- 
sance. As described by a participant,^ the British advanced 
four or five miles on December 28, quite unaware what 
awaited them, till a turn in the road brought them face to 
face with Jackson's entrenchments. These covered a front 
of three fourths of a mile, and neither flank could be turned, 
because resting either on the river or the swamp. They 
were not yet complete, but afforded good shelter for rifle- 
men, and had already several cannon in position, while the 
"Louisiana's" broadside also swept the ground in front. 
A hot artillery fire opened at once from both ship and 
works, and when the British infantry advanced they were 

1 Gleig, pp. 308-309. 


met equally with rausket^}^ The day's results convinced 
Pakenham that he must resort to the erection of batteries 
before attempting an assault ; an unfortunate necessity, as 
the delay not only encouraged the defenders, but allowed 
time for re-enforcement, and for further development of 
their preparations. While the British siege pieces were 
being brought forward, largely from the fleet, a distance 
of seventy miles, the American Navy was transferring guns 
from the " Louisiana " to a work on the opposite side of 
the river, which would flank the enemies' batteries, as well 
as their columns in case of an attempt to storm. 

When the guns had arrived, the British on the night of 
December 31 threw up entrenchments, finding convenient 
material in the sugar hogsheads of the plantations. On the 
morning of January 1 they opened with thirty pieces at a 
distance of five hundred yards ; but it was soon found that 
in such a duel they were hopelessly overmatched, a re- 
sult to which contributed the enfilading position of the 
naval battery. '• To the well-directed exertions from the 
other side of the river," wrote Jackson to Pattei-son, after 
the close of the operations, "must be ascribed in great 
measure that harassment of the enemy which led to his 
ignominious flight." The British guns were silenced, and 
for the moment abandoned; but during the night they 
were either withdrawn or destroyed. It was thus demon- 
strated that no adequate antecedent impression could be 
made on the American lines by cannonade ; and, as neither 
flank could be turned, no resource remained, on the east 
shore at least, but direct frontal assault. 

But while Jackson's main position was thus secure, he 
ran great risk that the enemy, by crossing the river, and 
successful advance there, might establish themselves in rear 
of his works; which, if effected, would put him at the 
same disadvantage that the naval battery now imposed 
upon his opponents. His lines would be untenable if his 

394 THE WAR OF 1812 

antagonist commanded the water, or gained the naval battery 
on his flank, to which the crew of the " Louisiana " and her 
long guns had now been transferred. This the British also 
perceived, and began to improve a narrow canal which 
then led from the head of the bayou to the levee, but was 
passable by canoes only. They expected ultimately to 
pierce the levee, and launch barges upon the river; but the 
work was impeded by the nature of the soil, the river fell, 
and some of the heavier boats grounding delayed the others, 
so that, at the moment of final assault, only five hundred 
men had been transported instead of thrice that number, as 
intended.^ What these few effected showed how real and 
great was the danger. 

The canal was completed on the evening of January 6, 
on which day the last re-enforcements from England, six- 
teen hundred men under Major-General Lambert, reached 
the front. Daylight of January 8 was appointed for the 
general assault; the intervening day and night being al- 
lowed for preparations, and for dragging forward the boats 
into the river. It was expected that the whole crossing 
party of fifteen hundred, under Colonel Thornton, would 
be on the west bank, ready to move forward at the same 
moment as the principal assault, which was also to be sup- 
ported by all the available artillery, playing upon the naval 
battery to keep down its fire. There was therefore no lack 
of ordinary military prevision ; but after waiting until ap- 
proaching daylight began to throw more light than was 
wished upon the advance of the columns, Pakenham gave 
the concerted signal. Owing to the causes mentioned, 
Thornton had but just landed with his first detachment 
of five hundred. Eager to seize the battery, from which 
was to be feared so much destructive effect on the storm- 

1 Gleig's Narrative, p. 321. Cochrane's Keport, Naval Chronicle, vol. 
xxxiii. p. 341. Report of Major C. R. Forrest, British Assistant Quarter- 
master-General, War Office Records. 


ing columns on the east bank, he pushed forward at once 
vdth the men he had, his flank towards the river covered 
by a division of naval armed boats ; " but the ensemble 
of the general movement," wrote the British general, Lam- 
bert, who succeeded Pakenham in command, "was thus 
lost, and in a point which was of the last importance to the 
[main] attack on the left bank of the river." 

Not only was Thornton too weak, but he was eight 
hours ^ late, though not by his own fault. Commodore 
Patterson, whose duties kept him on the west bank, re- 
ported that the naval battery was actively and effectively 
employed upon the flank of the storming columns, and it 
was not until some time after the engagement opened that 
he was informed of the near approach of the British detach- 
ment on that side. In prevision of such an attempt, a line 
of works had been thrown up at the lower end of the naval 
batter}^ at right angles to it, to cover its flank. This was 
weak, however, at the extremity farthest from the river, 
and thither the British directed their attack. The defend- 
ers there, some very newly joined Kentucky militia, broke 
and fled, and their flight carried with them all the other 
infantry. The seamen of the battery, deprived of their 
supports, retreated after spiking their guns, which fell into 
the enemy's hands ; and Thornton, who was severely 
wounded, was able to date his report of success from the 
" Redoubt on the right bank of the Mississippi." ^ He ad- 
vanced actually, and without serious opposition, a mile 
above — that is, in rear of — Jackson's lines and the " Lou- 
isiana's " anchorage. " This important rout," wrote Jack- 
son, " had totally changed the aspect of affairs. The 
enemy now occupied a position from which they might 
annoy us without hazard, and by means of which they 

1 Thornton's Report. James' Military Occurrences of the War of 1812, 
vol. ii., p. .547. 

2 James' Military Occurrences, voL ii. p. 547. 

396 THE WAR OF 1812 

might have been enabled to defeat, in a great measure, the 
effects of our success on this side of the river. It became, 
therefore, an object of the first consequence to dislodge him 
as soon as possible." 

Jackson himself attributed his success in this desirable 
object as much to negotiation as to the force he would be 
able to apply. The story of the main assault and its disas- 
trous repulse is familiar. In itself, it was but an instance 
of a truth conspicuously illustrated, before and after, on 
many fields, of the desperate character of a frontal attack 
upon protected men accustomed to the use of fire-arms — 
even though they be irregulars. Could Thornton's move- 
ment have been made in full force assigned, and at the 
moment intended, — so that most of the advance on both 
sides the river could have been consummated before dawn, 
— a successful flanking operation would have been effected ; 
and it is far from improbable that Jackson, finding the naval 
guns turned against him, would have been driven out of his 
lines. With raw troops under his command, and six thou- 
sand veterans upon his heels, no stand could have been 
made short of the town, nor in it. 

As it was, the failure of the two parts of the British to 
act coincidently caused them to be beaten in detail; for 
the disastrous and bloody repulse of the columns on the 
east bank led to the withdrawal of the tiny body on the 
west.i No further attempt was made. On the 18th of 
January the British withdrew. In pursuance of the full 
discretionary power given by their orders as to any further 
employment upon the American coast of the forces under 
their command, General Lambert and the Admiral then 
concerted an attack upon Fort Bowyer, at the entrance to 

1 Niles' Register, vols. vii. and viii., gives a large nnraber of the official 
reports, as well British as American, concerning the New Orleans Expedition. 
So also does James in his " Military Occurrences " and " Naval Occurrences " 
of the War of 1812. Regarded in outline, as is attempted in the text, the 
operations are of a simple character, presenting no difficulties. 


Mobile Bay. This surrendered February 11, the day that 
the news of the Peace reached New York. 

The ocean as well as the land had its episodes of fighting 
after peace had been signed. The United States frigate 
*' President," which during the first two years of the war 
Jiad been commanded continuously by Commodore John 
Rodgers, was in May, 1814, transferred to Decatur, who 
took to her with him the crew of his old ship, the " United 
States," irretrievably shut up in New London. The " Pres- 
ident" remained in New York throughout the year, nar- 
rowly watched by the enemy. In a letter of August 10, 
Decatur speaks of the unfavorable conditions of the season 
for sailing; that four British ships kept close to Sandy 
Hook, at times even anchored. He then mentions also 
■*'the great apprehension and danger" which New York 
was undergoing, in common with the entire seaboard, and 
the wish of the city government that the crew of the ship 
iihould remain for defence of the port.^ It will be remem- 
bered that this was in the anxious period preceding the 
development of the British menace to the coast, which 
issued in the capture of Washington and Alexandria, and 
the attack on Baltimore. Philadelphia also trembled ; and 
Decatur received an order to carry the *' President's " crew 
to her protection, if threatened.^ 

On New Year Day, 1815, the " President " was still 
in the bay, awaiting a chance to sail. She was deeply 
laden for a long absence, and was to be accompanied 
by a merchant brig, the "Macedonian," carrying further 
stores. The sloops " Hornet " and " Peacock," and brig 
*' Tom Bowline," were likewise watching to slip out On 
the night of January 14, 1815, in a heavy northwester, 

1 Captains' Letters. Navy Department MSS. 
* Ibid.. Sept. 26, 1814. 

S98 THE WAR OF 1812 

the " President's " attempt was made ; the pilots for the 
occasioii having undertaken to mark the channel by boats 
suitably stationed. Despite these precautions the ship 
grounded, and beat heavily on the bottom for an hour and 
a half. By this she was seriously injured, and would have 
gone back had the wind permitted. As it was, she had 
to be forced over, and at 10 p.m. went clear; but with loss 
of a large part of that speed for which she was known, and 
which had been among Decatur's chief reasons for pre- 
ferring her to the new " Guerrifere." ^ The " Macedonian " 
was in company. 

The British blockading division was under the command 
of Captain John Hayes, of the razee '^ " Majestic," and 
consisted, besides that ship, of the forty-gun 24-pounder 
frigate " Endymion," and the thirty-eight-gan 18-pounder 
frigates " Pomone " and " Tenedos " ; the latter of which had 
joined on the 13th. The vessels were driven off shore by 
the violence of the gale ; but Hayes, reasoning as a seaman, 
anticipated both Decatur's sailing that night and his prob- 
able course. After clearing the bar, the " President " 
steered nearly due east, along the south shore of Long 
Island, for fifty miles, when she headed off, southeast by 
east, for the open sea. At 5 a.m. three of the British 
squadron were seen ahead on the new course ; the fourth, 
the " Tenedos," being then out of sight to the southward, 
either detached for a wider sweep of watchfulness, or 
separated by the gale. 

The " President," on seeing the enemy, hauled up 
again along shore, and a stern chase began, which lasted 

^ Decatur to Navy Department, April 9, 1814. Captains' Letters. 

2 A razee is a ship cut down, and reduced from her original rate. The 
" Majestic " had been a seventy-four, and probably was the same vessel which 
under that name and rate took part in the battle of the Nile. The expedient 
of razeeing had been adopted by the British Government, in order rapidly 
to prepare vessels superior to the American forty-fours, yet less costly in 
crews than ships of the line. These razees were rated as carrying fifty-six 


tall near nightfall of the loth ; the " Endymion " leading 
the British squadron. The " Tenedos " being sighted soon 
after daybreak, Hayes detached the "Pomone" to ascer- 
tain what ship it was ; a step which for the time threw the 
*' Pomone," as well as the " Tenedos," out of the running. 
At 5 P.M. the "Endymion" had got well within point- 
blank shot of the " President." It must be appreciated 
that, with the whole hostile squadron at her heels, the 
American frigate could not delay, or turn her side with its 
battery towards an assailant behind ; for to do so enabled 
the others to gain on her. On the other hand, the pursuer 
could so deflect — yaw — at frequent intervals, and having 
the greater speed could continually recover the ground 
thus lost. This was what Captain Hope of the "Endy- 
mion " did, with sound judgment. He took a position on 
the off-shore quarter of the " President," where neither her 
broadside nor stern guns could bear upon him, so long as 
she held her course. Thence, yawing continually, the 
"Endymion" poured in her successive broadsides, practi- 
cally unopposed, mistress of the situiition. 

Decatui" endured this for a time ; but it was the military 
merit of his antagonist's conduct that it must eventually 
force him to turn aside, and so convert the stern chase of 
the British squadron to the more hopeful attempt to cut 
him off on a new course. After half an hour the " Presi- 
dent's " helm was put to port, and the ship headed abruptlj^ 
south, tlireatening to cross the " Endj-mion's " bow, and 
rake. The British frigate had to foUow this movement 
of her opponent, and the two ran off on parallel lines, 
exchanging broadsides. The object of Decatur was to 
dismantle this enemy, strip him of his motive power, 
and so increase his own chance of escape. In this he was 
successful. After two hours and a half, between 8 and 
8.30 P.M., the "Endymion's" sails were stripped from the 
yards. She dropped astern, and the " President " again 

400 ^^HE WAR OF 1812 

steered east, bringing the other enemy's ships once more 
in her wake, — a stern chase. ,. 

At 11 P.M. the " Pomone " and " Tenedos " overtook her. 
These were of the class of the " Guerri^re," " Macedonian,' 
and " Shannon," very much lighter, singly, than the " Pres- 
ident," which had a heavier battery than the " Constitution." 
Had the American ship retained her normal speed, she 
probably would have escaped; but the " Pomone," the first 
to arrive, outsailed her without using studdingsails, which 
the " President" was still able to carry alow and aloft, de- 
spite her engagement with the " Endymion." This fresh 
British ship luffed to port, and fired her starboard broad- 
side. The " President" imitated the manoeuvre, heading up 
to north ; but she did not fire. At this point the historian 
is met by a direct contradiction of evidence. Decatur 
says that the " Pomone " was now on the port bow, within 
musket-shot,^ the "Tenedos" five hundred yards astern, 
" taking up a raking position on our quarter, and the rest 
(with the exception of the ' Endymion ') within gunshot." ^ 
These statements are confirmed by the sworn testimony 
before the American Court of Inquiry. The log of the 
" Pomone," published with intention, reads that the " Ten- 
edos " was not more than three miles off, — a distance to 
which no gun on shipboard of that day could carry, — and 
the " Endymion " and " Majestic " so far away that they 
did not come on the scene until 12.45 and 3 a.m., respect- 
ively, of the 16th. The " Pomone " fired a second broad- 
side, and hauUng still further to port was about to discharge 
a third, from a raking position ahead, when the " Presi- 
dent" struck. She had not fired a gun at either the 
" Pomone " or the " Tenedos." The log of the " Pomone " 

^ Deposition of Commodore Decatur at Bermuda. Naval Chronicle, vol. 
xxxiii. p. 371. 

2 Decatur's Report. Niles' Register, vol. viii. p. 8. In his deposition 
Decatur says " the ' Tenedos ' did not fire at the time of such surrender." 


is clear on this point, and Decatur's elaborate report makes 
no mention of having done so. The witnesses before the 
Court of Inquiry are equally sOent. 

Between the " Endymion " and the " President," in point 
of battery, the proportion of force was as four to three, 
in favor of the American ship. Against that must fairly 
be weighed the power of the " Endymion " to maintain for 
half an hour a quartering and raking position, owing to 
the necessity to escape laid on the " President" A quan- 
titative estimate of this advantage would be largely guess ; 
but it may safely be said that the disproportion of 
killed and wounded ^ can probably be laid to this, coupled 
with the ver}' proper endeavor of Decatur to throw off his 
immediate enemy by aiming at her spars. After two and 
a half hours' fighting, the sails of the " Endymion " were 
" stripped from the yards," Captain Hayes reported ; while 
the " President," by the " Pomone's " log, " continued to 
stand east under a press of sail," all studdingsails set, from 
lower to royaL This result accounts for where the " Pres- 
ident's " shot went, and under the circumstances should 
have gone, and for why the " Endymion " lost fewer men ; 
and it was not the sole reason for the last. There is, in 
the writer's judgment, no ground whatever for the assump- 
tion that the " Endymion" did, or singly would, have beaten 
the "President." The disparity of material force was 
counterbalanced by the circumstance that the " President " 
had the other vessels to take into account. From the legal 
"point of view ships merely in sight contribute, and are 
therefore entitled to prize money. In the present instance 
they necessarily affected the manoeuvring and gunnery of ^ 
the " President." 

There is a good deal of human nature, and some food for 

1 The loss of the " President " was twenty-four killed, fifty -five wounded. 
(Decatur's Report.) That of the "Endymion," eleven killed and four- 
teen wounded. (Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxiii. p. 262.) 
VOL. 11. — 26 

402 THE WAR OF 1812 

quiet entertainment, in the British accounts. There were 
several to share, and apparentlj^the glory was not quite 
enough to go round. With Admiral Hotham, not present 
in the action, but in immediate command of the station 
during Cochrane 's absence at New Orleans and Cockburn's 
in Georgia, it was " the force which I had collected off the 
bar of New York." Captain Hayes had much to say on 
his calculations of the enemy's movements : " What is a 
little singular, at the very instant of arriving at the point 
of the supposed track of the enemy, Sandy Hook west- 
northwest fifteen leagues, we were made happy by the 
sight of a ship and a brig, not more than two miles on the 
weather bow." The published report of Captain Hope, 
of the "Endymion," is simple and modest; but some of 
his followers apparently would have all the glory. The 
"Endymion" had done the whole business. This drew 
forth the publication of the " Pomone's " log, concerning 
which the Naval Chronicle remarks, " It appears that 
some differences have taken place between the British 
frigates engaged, as to the honor of having captured the 

Had Decatur appreciated at the moment that his speedy 
surrender to the " Pomone " would be attributed to the sub- 
jection to which the " Endymion " was supposed to have re- 
duced his ship, he very probably would have made a second 
fight of it. But he was convinced that ultimate escape was 
impossible. " Two fresh," though much weaker, ships of the 
enemy at hand, his own having fought for two hours and a 
half ; " about one fifth of my crew killed and wounded, my 
ship crippled, and a more than fourfold force opposed to 
me, without a chance of escape left, I deemed it my duty to 
surrender." Physical and mental fatigue, the moral discom- 
fiture of a hopeless situation, are all fairly to be taken into 
account ; nor should resistance be protracted where it means 

1 Naval Chronicle, vol. xxxiii. p. 370. 


merely loss of life. Yet it may be questioned whether the 
moral tone of a military service, which is its breath of life, 
does not suffer when the attempt is made to invest with a 
halo of extraordinary heroism such a resistance as Decatur 
made, by his own showing. Unless the " President " was 
really thrashed out by the "Endymion," which \ras the 
British assertion,^ she might have put one of his Majesty's 
thirty-eight-gun frigates, the " Pomone," out of commission 
for a long time ; and that, in addition to the " Endymion, " — 
the two fastest British vessels, — would have been no light 
matter in the then state of the Xew York blockade. If the 
finding of the American Court of Inquiry ,2 that " the * Endy- 
mion ' was conquered, while the ' President ' in the con- 
test with her had sustained but little injury," be admitted, 
there seems no reply to the comment that the " President " 
surrendered within musket-shot of a thirty-eight-gun frigate 
which with three or four broadsides she should have nearly 
annihilated. She was out to destroy commerce and enemy's 
cruisers, and she struck before her powers in that respect 
— by the Court's finding — were exhausted. Escape was 
impossible ; one object of her cruise — the enemy's com- 
merce — had become impracticable ; was it justifiable to 
neglect the last opportunity for the other? Decatur's 
personal gallantry is beyond question ; but, if the defence 
of the "President" is to be considered "glorious," and 
" heroic," it is difficult to know what term can be applied 
to that of the " Essex." War is violence, wounds, and 
death. Needless bloodshed is to be avoided; but even 
more, at the present day, is to be deprecated the view that 
the objects of a war are to be sacrificed to the preservation 
of life. 

After a long detention, through the closeness of the 

1 Captain Hayes' Report. Niles' Register, vol. viii. p. 175. Naval Chron- 
icle, vol. xxxiii. p. 261. 

2 Niles' Register, vol. viii. p. 147. 

404 THE WAR OF 1812 

Boston blockade, the " Constitution," still commanded by 
Captain Charles Stewart, effectedher escape to sea towards 
the end of December. On February 20, 1815, two hun- 
dred miles east-northeast from Madeira, she fell in with two 
British ships of war, the " Cyane," and the " Levant," then 
on their way from Gibraltar to the Azores, and thence to 
the American coast. The " Cyane," a frigate-built ship, car- 
ried a battery of carronades : thirty 32-pounders, two 18- 
pounders. She had also two long 9-pounders ; making a 
total of thirty-four guns, throwing a broadside weight of five 
hundred and seven pounds.^ The " Levant " was a sloop of 
war, of the American " Hornet " class, carrying eighteen 32- 
pounder carronades and two long 9-pounders ; giving two 
hundred and ninety-seven as her broadside weight. Be- 
tween the two they therefore threw eight hundred and four 
pounds of metal. The " Constitution's " broadside was 
seven hundred and four pounds; but of this three hun- 
dred and eighty-four were in long 24-pounders. Supposing 
both parties willing to fight under such circumstances, the 
game would be all in the " Constitution's " hands. Her 
problem rather was so to conduct the contest that neither 
enemy should escape. Captain Stewart, in reporting his 
success, dwelt upon the advantages derived by the enemy 
" from a divided and more active force, as also their supe- 
riority in the weight and numbers of guns." One cannot 
but feel the utmost diffidence in differing from a seaman 
of the time, and one so skilful as Stewart ; but the advan- 
tage of a divided force is as difficult to see as the superiority 
in battery power. 

Though consorts, the enemy when first seen were sepa- 
rated by a distance of ten miles ; and were sighted succes- 
sively between 1 and 2 p.m. The wind was easterly and 
light. The " Constitution " was unable to prevent their 

1 The armament of tlie " Cyane " is that reported by Lieut. Hoffman, II. S. 
Navy, who brouglit her to the United States. Niles' Register, vol. viii. p. 134. 


Junction, which was effected at 5.45. They then formed 
in line on the starboard tack, the " Levant " leading; with 
an interval between them of three hundred feet. At six 
the " Constitution " drew up on the weather side of the 
"Cyane," and five minutes later the action began at a 
distance of three hundred yards. After a quarter of an 
hour, noting the enemy's fire to slacken, Stewart stopped 
his own, to allow the smoke to lift. When he could see, 
he found the " Constitution " abreast the " Levant," with 
the "Cyane" astern, luffing up for his port quarter. He 
gave his port broadside to the " Levant," then braced aback 
his after-saiLs, and so went astern towards the "Cyane," 
bringing her abeam under cover of the renewed cannonade. 
At 6.35 — about ten minutes later — the enemy's fire again 
weakened, and the " Levant " was seen to be bearing up 
before the wind. Stewart made sail ahead, raked her twice 
from astern with the port guns, and then saw the " Cyane " 
also wearing. The " Constitution " immediately wore short 
round, and caught this opponent before she had completed 
her manoeuvre, so that she raked her also from astern with 
the starboard battery. The " Cyane " then came to the 
wind on the port tack, and fired that broadside, to which 
the "Constitution," having reloaded after raking, was 
about to reply, when at 6.50 this enemy struck, and fired 
a lee gun, — the signal of submission. A prize crew, with a 
party of marines to guard prisoners, was hastily thrown 
on board, and at eight the " Constitution " made sail again 
after the " Levant." At 8.30 this plucky little ship was 
met returning to the conflict. At 8.50 the two passed on 
opposite tacks, and exchanged broadsides, after which the 
" Constitution " kept away under the enemy's stern and 
raked again. The " Levant " could now run with a clear 
conscience. Whatever argument can be based on the 
united batteries of the two British ships, and the advan- 
tage of divided force, eighteen 32-poimder caiTonades were 

406 THE WAR OF 1812 

no match for the " Constitution." The "Levant" took to 
her heels, but at 10 p.m. was overtaken and surrendered.^ 

The losses as reported by Stewart were : " Constitution," 
killed three; wounded twelve; " Cyane, " killed twelve; 
wounded twenty-six ; " Levant," killed twenty-three ; 
wounded sixteen. Captain Stewart's management of his 
vessel was strikingly clever and prompt. The advantages 
which he attributed to the enemy, an aggregate of guns, 
slightly superior in total weight, divided between two 
smaller ships, the author has never been able to recognize.^ 

The sloops of war " Hornet," Commander James Biddle, 
and " Peacock," Commander Lewis Warrington, and the 
brig " Tom Bowline," which were waiting their oppor- 
tunity in the lower bay of New York when the " President " 
sailed, got to sea five days after her, January 20. When 
two days out, the "Hornet" separated in chase. The 
vessels had a rendezvous at the lonely island of Tristan 
d'Acunha, in the South Atlantic, some fifteen hundred 
miles west of the Cape of Good Hope. The "Hornet" 
arrived first, and was about to anchor, at 10.30 in the 
morning of March 23, when a sail was seen to the south- 
east, steering west. As it soon passed behind the island, 
the "Hornet" made sail to the westward, and the two 
shortly came within sight. The stranger was the British 
sloop of war " Penguin," Captain Dickinson. By the re- 
port of Captain Biddle, based on examination after the 
action, she carried sixteen 32-pounder carronades, two 
long 12-pounders in broadside, and one long twelve on 

1 The " Cyane " reached a United States port, but the " Levant " was re- 
captured by a British squadron. Both names remained in the United States 
Navy till the Civil War. A " Levant," built in succession to the one cap- 
tured, was lost at sea in 1860 — never heard from. 

'^ The account given in the text depends upon Stewart's " minutes of 
the action" (Niles' Register, vol. viii. p. 219), compared with the "Con- 
stitution's " log (Navy Department MSS.), of which the minutes are a 

*' HORNET'' AXD '' PENGUIN" 407 

a pivot, fighting either side. The " Hornet " had eighteen 
32-pounder carronades, and two long twelves. 

The wind being south-southwest, the "Penguin*' was 
to windward, and bore up to close. At 1.40 p.m., being 
nearly within musket-shot, she hauled to the wind on the 
starboard tack, a movement which the "Hornet" at once 
imitated, and the battle began ; the " Hornet " to leeward, 
the two running on parallel courses, — an artillery duel. 
The " Penguin " drew gradually nearer, and at 1.55 put 
her helm hard up, to run her antagonist on board. The 
American crew were called to repel boardei-s, and so were 
on hand when the enemy's bowsprit came in between the 
main and mizzen rigging; but, while ready to resist an 
attempt to board, the course of the action had so satisfied 
Biddle of the superiority of his ship's gunnery that he 
would not throw his men away in a hand-to-hand contest 
upon the enemy's decks. The small arms men and ma- 
rines, however, distributed along the "Hornet's" side kept 
up a lively musketry fire, which the British endured at 
great disadvantage, crowded upon the narrow front pre- 
sented by a ship's forecastle. The " Penguin " finally 
wrenched clear with the loss of her foremast and bow- 
sprit, and in this crippled state surrendei*ed immediately. 
From the first gun to hauling down the flag was twenty- 
two minutes. The British ship had lost fourteen killed 
and twenty-eight wounded, her captain being among the 
slain. The "Hornet" had one killed and ten wounded. 
The comparative efficiency of the two vessels is best in- 
dicated by the fact that the " Hornet " had not a single 
cannon-ball in her hull, nor any serious injury even to 
her lower masts ; yet that her rigging and sails were very 
much cut proves that her opponent's guns were active. 
By the ready skill of the seamen of that day she was 
completely ready for any service forty-eight hours later. 
The " Pensruin " was scuttled. 

408 THE WAR OF 1812 

The action between the " Hornet " and " Penguin " was 
the last naval combat of the War t)f 1812, The day after 
it, March 24, the " Peacock " and " Tom Bowline " arrived, 
in time to see the " Penguin " before her captor sunk her. 
The brig " Macedonian," which had sailed in company with 
the " President," but escaped her fate, also came to Tristan 
d'Acunha, which would seem to have been intended as a 
fresh starting point for some enterprise in common. 


THE Government of the United States had been 
honestly loath to declare war in 1812, and had 
signalized its reluctance by immediate advances 
looking to a restoration of peace. These were 
made through Jonathan Russell, the charge d'affaires in 
London when hostilities began. To use the expression of 
Monroe, then Secretary of State, " At the moment of the 
declaration of war, the President, regretting the necessity 
which produced it, looked to its termination, and provided 
for it." ^ The two concessions required as indispensable, in 
the overture thus referred to, dated June 26, 1812, were the 
revocation of the Orders in Council, and the abandonment 
of the practice of impressing from American merchant ships. 
Should these preliminary conditions be obtained, Russell 
was authorized to stipulate an armistice, during which the 
two countries should enter upon negotiations, to be con- 
ducted either at Washington or in London, for the settle- 
ment of all points of difference. 

Russell made this communication to Castlereagh August 
24, 1812. Before this date Admiral Warren had sailed 
from England for the American command, carrjang with 
him the propositions of the British Government for a sus- 
pension of hostilities, consequent upon the repeal of the 
Orders in Council.^ In view of Warren's mission, and of 

1 Monroe to Russell, Aug. 21, 1812. American State Papers, Foreign 
Relations, vol. iii. p. 587. 

2 Ante, vol. i. p. 390. 

410 THE WAR OF 1812 

the fact that Russell had no powers to negotiate, but merely 
to conclude an arrangement upon terms which he could not 
alter, and which his Government had laid down in igno- 
rance of the revocation of the Orders, Castlereagh declined 
to discuss with him the American requirements. " I can- 
not, however," he wrote, " refrain on one single point from 
expressing my surprise, namely, that as a condition pre- 
liminary even to a suspension of hostilities, the Govern- 
ment of the United States should have thought fit to 
demand that the British Government should desist from its 
ancient and accustomed practice of impressing British sea- 
men from the merchant ships of a foreign state, simply on 
the assurance that a law shall hereafter be passed to pro- 
hibit the employment of British seamen in the public or 
commercial service of that state." ^ " The Government 
could not consent to suspend the exercise of a right upon 
which the naval strength of the empire mainly depends," 
until fully convinced that the object would be assured by 
other means. To a subsequent modification of the Ameri- 
can propositions, in form, though not in tenor, the British 
minister replied in the same spirit, throwing the weight of 
his objections upon the question of impressment, which in- 
deed remained alone of the two causes of rupture.^ 

Commendable as was its desire for peace, the American 
Government had made the mistake of being unwilling to 
insure it by due and timely preparation for war. In these 
advances, therefore, its adversary naturally saw not mag- 
nanimity, but apprehension. Russell, in reporting his final 
interview, wrote, " Lord Castlereagh once observed some- 
what loftily, that if the American Government was so 
anxious to get rid of the war^ it would have an opportunity 

1 American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 590. 

2 Correspondence between Russell and Castlereagh, Sept. 12-18, 1812; and 
Russell to Monroe, Sept. 17. American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. 
iii. pp. 591-595. 

* Russell's italics. 


of doing so on learning the revocation of the Orders in 
Council." The American representative rejoined with 
proper spirit ; but the remark betrayed the impression pro- 
duced by this speedy offer, joined to the notorious military 
unreadiness of the United States. Such things do not 
make for peace. The British ministry, like a large part of 
the American people, saw in the declaration of war a mere 
variation upon the intermittent poUcy of commercial restric- 
tions of the past five years; an attempt to frighten, by 
hluster. In such spirit Monroe, in this very letter of 
June 26 to Russell, had dwelt upon the many advantages 
to be derived from peace with the United States ; adding, 
^not to mention the injuries which cannot fail to result 
from a prosecution of the war." In transcribing his in- 
structions, Russell discreetly omitted the latter phrase ; but 
the omission, like the words themselves, betrays conscious- 
ness that the Administration was faithful to the tradition 
of its party, dealing in threats rather than in deeds. 
Through great part of the final negotiations the impression 
thus made remained with the British ministers. 

On September 20, 1812, the Chancellor of the Russian 
Empire requested a visit from the American minister resi- 
dent at St. Petersburg, Mr. John Quincy Adams. In the 
consequent interview, the next evening, the Chancellor 
said that the Czar, having recently made peace and re- 
established commercial intercourse with Great Britain, was 
much concerned that war should have aiisen almost im- 
mediately between her and the United States. Hostilities 
between the two nations, which together nearly monopo- 
lized the carrying trade of the world, would prevent the 
economical benefits to Russia expected from the recent 
change in her political relations. The question was then 
asked, whether a proffer of Russian mediation would be 
regarded favorably by the United States. Adams had not 
yet received official intelligence even of the declaration of 

412 THE WAR OF 1812 

war, and was without information as to the views of his 
Government on the point suggested; but he expressed 
certainty that such an advance would be cordially met, 
and he could foresee no obstacle to its entertainment. 
The proposal was accordingly made to the President, 
through the customary channels, and on March 11, 1813, 
was formally accepted by him. James A. Bayard and 
Albert Gallatin were nominated commissioners, conjointly 
with Mr. Adams, to act for the United States in forming a 
treaty of peace under the mediation of the Czar. They 
sailed soon afterwards. 

The American acceptance reached St. Petersburg about 
June 15 ; but on that day Adams was informed by the 
Chancellor that his despatches from London signified the 
rejection of the Russian proposition by the British Govern- 
ment, on the ground that the differences with the United 
States involved principles of the internal government of 
Great Britain, which could not be submitted to the discus- 
sion of any mediation.^ As the Russian Court was then 
in campaign, at the headquarters of the allied armies, 
in the tremendous operations of the summer of 1813 
against Napoleon, much delay necessarily ensued. On 
September 1, however, the British ambassador, who was 
accompanying the Court in the field, presented a formal 
letter reaffirming the unwillingness of his Government to 
treat under mediation, but offering through the Czar, whose 
mediatorial advance was so far recognized, to nominate 
plenipotentiaries to meet those of the United States in 
direct consultation. In the backward and forward going 
of despatches in that preoccupied and unsettled moment, it 
was not till near November 1 that the British Foreign 
Office heard from the ambassador that the American com- 
missioners were willing so to treat, and desirous to keep 

1 The correspondence relating to the Russian proffer of mediation is to be 
found in American State Papers, vol. iii. pp. 623-627. 


their business separate from that of the continent of 
Europe ; but that their powers were limited to action 
through the mediation of Russia. Castlereagh then, on 
November 4, addressed a note to the United States Govern- 
ment, offering a direct negotiation. This was accepted 
formally, January 5, 1814 ; ^ and Henry Clay with Jonathan 
Russell were added to the commission already constituted, 
raising the number of members to five. The representa- 
tives of Great Britain were three : Admiral Lord Gambier, 
Henry Goulburn, and William Adams, Ghent was fixed 
upon for the place of meeting. 

The instructions issued to the American commissioners 
were voluminous. They contained not only the require- 
ments of the Government, but arguments from every point of 
view, and alternatives of several descriptions, to meet anti- 
cipated objections. Such elaboration was perhaps necessary 
when negotiation was to take place so remote from com- 
munication with home. On one point, however, as originally 
issued in contemplation of Russian mediation, demand was 
peremptory. Impressment must cease, by stipulation. " If 
this encroachment of Great Britain is not provided against, 
the United States have appealed to arms in vain." At 
that moment, April 15, 18 13,^ the flush of expectation was 
still strong. " Should improper impressions have been taken 
of the probable consequences of the war, you will have ample 
means to remove them. It is certain that from its prose- 
cution Great Britain can promise to herself no advantage, 
while she exposes herself to great expenses and to the 
danger of still greater losses." Nine months later, looking 
to direct negotiation, the same confident tone is maintained. 
"On impressment, the sentiments of the President have 
undergone no change. This degrading practice must 
cease. . . . No concession is contemplated on any point in 

1 American State Papers, vol. iii. pp. 621-622, 

2 Ibid., pp. 693-700. 

414 THE WAR OF 1812 

controversy ; " ^ and three weeks afterwards, February 14, 
1814, " Should peace be made in Europe, it is presumed 
that the British Government would have less objection to 
forbear impressment for a specified term, than it would 
have should the war continue. In concluding a peace, 
even in case of a previous general peace in Europe, it is 
important to obtain such a stipulation." ^ On June 27, 
the note was lowered. " If found indispensably necessary 
to terminate the war, you may omit any stipulation on the 
subject of impressment." This was in pursuance of the 
Cabinet determination of June 27, already quoted. ^ It 
abandoned the only ground for war that had existed since 
August, 1812, when the Orders in Council were known to 
have been repealed. The commissioners were indeed to 
do their best to obtain from the British Government the 
demanded concessions, not in the matter of impressment 
only, but on the whole subject of irregular blockades, 
which underlay the Orders in Council, as well as on other 
maritime questions in dispute; but in pressing such de- 
mands they were under orders to fall back before resist- 
ance. From the opening of the colloquy they were on the 

Quite different was the position assumed at first by the 
British Government and people. The events of the critical 
year 1813, both in Europe and America, had changed the 
entire outlook. Alexander Baring, whose general attitude 
towards the United States was friendly, wrote to Gallatin, 
October 12, 1813, " We wish for peace, but the pressure 
of the war upon our commerce and manufactures is over. 
They have ample relief in other quarters ; indeed, the de- 
pendence of the two countries on each other was overrated." 
He was positive that there would be no concession on im- 

1 American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 701. 

2 Ibid., p. 703. 

' Ante, p. 266, and note. 


pressment. Again, on December 14, " The pressure of the 
war is diminished. Commerce is now abundantly prosper- 
ous. " ^ Gallatin himself had occasion to spend some time in 
London during the succeeding spring, — 1814. Quotation 
from his observations has been made already .^ In a letter 
of April 21, — after Napoleon's abdication, — " The pros- 
ecution of war with the I7nited States would afford a 
convenient pretext for preserving a more considerable 
standing force." ^ This would be a useful element in the 
troublesome diplomacy to be foreseen, in settling the dis- 
turbed affairs of Europe; and the Government stood in 
need of reasons for maintaining the pressure of taxation, 
which was already ehciting, and later in the year still more 
elicited, s}Tnptoms of great discontent and dangerous Par- 
liamentary opposition. Yet in its conduct towards America 
the Cabinet had the people behind it. Two months later, 
Gallatin wrote to the Secretary of State, "You may rest 
assured of the general hostile spirit of this nation, and 
of its wish to inflict serious injury on the United States ; 
that no assistance can be expected from Europe ; and 
that no better terms will be obtained than the status ante 

At the time of this writing, June 13, the British Foreign 
Secretary, Lord Castlereagh, returned from Paris, where 
he had been spending the two months succeeding the first 
abdication of Napoleon. During this period formal peace 
with France had been established, and the Bourbons re- 
seated on her throne. His instructions to the British 
commissioners at Ghent, issued July 28, were framed on 
lines which showed consciousness of mastery .^ The ques- 

1 Writings of Albert Crallatin, edited by Henry Adams, vol. i. pp. 586, 

2 Ante, p. 332. 

* Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. i. p. 603. * Ibid., vol. i. p. 629. 

* A similar consciousness appears to the writer discernible in a letter of 
Wellington to Castlereagh, of May 25, 1814. To procure "the cession of Oli- 

416 THE WAR OF 1812 

tion of abandoning the practice of impressment would not 
be so much as entertained. The Rule of 1756 should " rest 
on its own clear and well established authority." ^ The 
commissioners were not even to discuss it. Equally deci- 
sive was the position taken with regard to questions of 
irregular blockades, and of compensation for seizures 
under the Orders in Council. When these were presented 
by the American commissioners, the first was waived 
aside, as one on which there was no difference of abstract 
principle ; while as to the second, " you cannot be too 
peremptory in discouraging, at the outset, the smallest 
expectation of any restitution of captures made under the 
Orders in Council." ^ 

Military and naval weakness, combined with the changed 
conditions in Europe, made the United States powerless 
when thus confronted with refusal. The British Secretary 
stood on far less sure ground, as to success, when he began 
to formulate his own demands. These were essentially 
two : suitable arrangements for the Indians, and a rectifi- 
cation of the frontiers. There was a third question, con- 
cerning the fisheries on the Great Banks of Newfoundland. 
As to these, the general right of all nations to frequent the 
Banks, being open sea, was explicitly admitted ; but the 
subjects of a foreign state had no right to fish within 
the maritime jurisdiction of Great Britain, much less to 
land with their catch on coasts belonging to her. The 
provisions of the Treaty of 1783 therefore would not be 
renewed, unless for an equivalent. 

As regarded the Indians, an adequate arrangement of their 

venza by Spain to Portugal, we could promise to hind North America, by a 
secret article in our treaty of peace, to give no encouragement, or countenance, 
or assistance, to the Spanish colonies " (then in revolt). Memoirs and Corre- 
spondence of Lord Castlereagh, series iii. vol. ii. p. 44. The italics are mine. 

1 Castlereagh to the British commissioners, July 28, 1814. Castlereagh's 
Memoirs and Correspondence, series iii. vol. ii. p. 69. 

2 Ibid., Aug. 14, 1814, pp. 88, 89. 


interests ^ras a sine qua non of peace ; nor would a full and 
express recognition of present limits by itself alone fulfil this 
demand. There must te security for its future observance. 
The particular method by which this observance should be 
maintained was not made iadispensable ; but it was plainly 
stated in the instructions that the best means was " a mutual 
guarantee of the Indian possessions, as they shall be estab- 
lished upon the peace, against encroachment on the part of 
either State." The suggestion, in its logical consequence 
and in its intent, went to establishing the communities of 
Indians as a sovereign state, with boundaries guaranteed by 
Great Britain and the United States, — a most entangling 
alliance. In support of this, Castlereagh alleged that such 
a barrier of separation possessed a distinct advantage over 
a line of contact between the two guaranteeing states, such 
as now existed in their common boundary. The collisions 
incident to intercourse between red and white men were 
easily transferred from side to side of such a conventional 
line, causing continual disputes. The advantages of a buf- 
fer state, to use the modern term, would be secured by the 
proposed arrangement. Writing to the prime minister, 
the Earl of Liverpool, he said, " The question is one of ex- 
pediency ; and not of principle, as the American commis- 
sioners have endeavored to make it. It does not follow, 
because, in the year 1783, the two States, not perhaps very 
justly, took a common boundary, thereby assuming a sort 
of sovereignty over the Indians, that they may not mutu- 
ally recede from that boundary, if a frontier conterminous 
with that of the Indians is preferable to one with each 

However plausible reasoning based upon such premises 
might seem to the party advancing it, it could not qualify 
the fact that it required from the United States a large 

^ Castlereagh to Liverpool, Paris, Aag. 28, 1814. Castlereagh Memoirs, 
p. 101. 

VOL. II. — 27 

418 THE WAR OF 1812 

cession of territory, to be surrendered to the Indians un- 
der British guarantee. Such a demand was a dangerous 
diplomatic weapon to put within reach of a commission, of 
which Adams and Gallatin were members. In presenting 
it, also, the British representatives went beyond the letter 
of their instructions, issued by Castlereagh on July 28, 
and enlarged August 14. Not only was the inclusion of 
the Indians in the peace to be a sine qud non, but they 
wrote, " It is equally necessary " that a definite boundary 
be assigned, and the integrity of their possessions mutually 
guaranteed.! This paper was submitted to Castlereagh as 
he passed through Ghent to Paris, on his way to the Vienna 
Conference. " Had I been to prepare the note given in on 
our part, I should have been less peremptory ; " but, like 
many superiors, he hesitated to fetter the men in immediate 
charge, and " acquiesced in the expression, ' It is equally 
necessary, etc.,' which is very strong." ^ The prime minis- 
ter was still more deprecatory. He wrote Castlereagh, 
" Our commissioners had certainly taken a very erron- 
eous view of our policy. If the negotiations had been 
allowed to break off upon the two notes already pre- 
sented, ... I am satisfied the war would have become 
popular in America."^ 

The American commissioners could see this also, and 
were quick to use the advantage given by the wording of 
the paper before them, to improve the status of the United 
States in the negotiation ; for one of the great weaknesses, 
on which Great Britain reckoned, was the disunion of 
American sentiment on the subject of the war. Of their 
reply, dated August 24, Castlereagh wrote, "It is ex- 
tremely material to answer the American note, as it is evi- 

1 Note of the British commissioners, Aug. 19, 1814. American State 
Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 710. My italics. 

2 Castlereagh to Liverpool, Aug. 28, 1814. Castlereagh Memoirs, series 
iii. vol. ii. p. 100. 

8 Liverpool to Castlereagh, Sept. 2, 1814. Castlereagh Papers MSS. 


dently intended to rouse the people upon the question of 
their independence." ^ Besides the Indian proposition, the 
British note of August 19 had conveyed also the explicit 
views of the ministry as to rectification of frontier. Stated 
briefly, the chain of the Great Lakes was asserted to be 
a military barrier essential to the security of Canada, as 
the weaker community in North America. To assure it, 
no territorial cession was required ; but the lakes should be 
in the sole military tenure of Great Britain. The United 
States might use them freely for commercial purposes, but 
should maintain on them no ship of war, nor build any for- 
tification on their shores, or within a certain distance, to 
be fixed by agreement. In addition to this, on the side of 
the lower St. Lawrence, there was to be such a cession of the 
northern part of Maine as would establish a direct com- 
munication between Quebec and Halifax. The American 
reply of August 24'-^ discussed these questions, patiently 
but instructively. The matters involved were made plain 
for the American reader, and the paper closed with the 
clear intimation that before such terms were accepted there 
must be a great deal more fighting. *' It is not necessary 
to refer such demands to the American Government for in- 
structions. They will only be a fit subject of deliberation 
when it becomes necessary to decide upon the expediency 
of an absolute sun-ender of national independence." So 
far as the British proposals went, the question was mili- 
tary, not diplomatic ; for soldiers and seamen to decide, not 
for negotiators. 

So it stood, and so in the solution it proved. The 
American commissioners held firm to this ground ; while 
on the part of the British there was thenceforth a continual 
effort to escape from a false position, or to temporize, until 
some favorable change of circumstances might enable them 

^ Castlereagh Memoirs, etc., series iii. voL ii. p. 101. 

' American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. pp. 711-713. 

420 THE WAR OF 1812 

to insist. " The substance of the question," wrote Castle- 
reagh to the prime minister, " is, are we prepared to con- 
tinue the war for territorial arrangements. If not, is this 
the best time to make peace, or is it desirable to take the 
chances of the campaign and then to be governed by cir- 
cumstances ? " ^ " If our campaign in Canada should be as 
successful as our military preparations would lead us to 
expect," . . . replied Liverpool, "if our commander does 
his duty, I am persuaded we shall have acquired by our 
arms every point on the Canadian frontier, which we ought 
to insist on keeping." ^ 

By these considerations the next British note was dic- 
tated, and presented September 4.^ It simply argued the 
question, with dilatory design, in a somewhat minatory 
tone. "I think it not unlikely," Liverpool had written 
with reference to it, "that the American commissioners 
will propose to refer the subject to their Government. In 
that case, the negotiation may be adjourned till the answer 
is received, and we shall know the result of the campaign 
before it can be resumed." But the Americans did not 
refer. They too needed time for their people to learn what 
now was the purpose of hostilities, which the British envoys 
had precipitately stated as an indispensable concession, and 
to manifest the national temper under the changed circum- 
stances ; but they did not choose that the matter should be 
stated as one open to discussion. They knew well enough 
the harassment of maintaining a land warfare three thou- 
sand miles from Great Britain, as well as the dangers threat- 
ening the European situation and embarrassing the British 
ministry. They in turn discussed at length, scrutinizing 
historically the several arguments of their opponents ; but 
their conclusion was foregone. The two propositions — 

1 Castlereagh to Liverpool, August 28. Memoirs, etc., series iii. vol. ii. 
p. 102. 

2 Liverpool to Castlereagh, September 2, Castlereagh Papers MSS. 
« Americau State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 713. 


first, of assigning " a definite boundaiy to the Indians living 
within the limit of the United States, beyond which bound- 
ary they [the United States] should stipulate not to acquire 
any territory ; secondly, of securing the exclusive military- 
possession of the lakes to Great Britain — are both inad- 
missible. We cannot subscribe to, and would deem useless 
to refer to our Government, any arrangement containing 
either of these propositions." The British Government 
was not permitted any subterfuge to escape from the pre- 
mature insistence upon cession of territory made hj their 
envoys, which would tend to unite the people in America ; 
nor was it to be anticipated that prolonged hostilities for 
such an object would be acceptable in Great Britain. 

The pre-eminence given to the Indian question by Great 
Britain in these negotiations was due to the importance 
attached by British local officials to the aid of the savages 
in war, and to a sensitive conviction that, when thus 
utilized, they should not be abandoned in peace. Their 
military value was probably over-estimated. It consisted 
chiefly in numbers, in which the British were inferior, and 
in the terror produced by their cruelties ; doubtless, also, in 
some degree to their skill in woodcraft ; but they were not 
dependable. Such as it was, their support went usually to 
the weaker party ; not because the Indian naturally sided 
with the weaker, but because he instinctively recognized 
that from the stronger he had most to fear. Therefore in 
colonial days France, in later days Great Britain, in both 
cases Canada, derived more apparent profit from their em- 
ployment than did their opponent, whose more numerous 
white men enabled him to dispense with the fickle and 
feebler aid of the aborigines. 

Before the firm attitude of the note of September 9, the 
British Government again procrastinated, and receded from 
demands which sound policy should from the first have 
recognized as untenable, unless reposing upon decisive 

422 THE WAR OF 1812 

military success and occupation. On September 19, their 
commissioners replied ^ that while the exclusive military- 
possession of the lakes would be conducive to a good 
understanding, without endangering the security of the 
United States, it had not been advanced as a sine qud non. 
A final proposition on the subject of the Canadian bound- 
aries would be made, when the Indian question was settled. 
Concerning this, they were " authorized distinctly to de- 
clare that they are instructed not to sign a treaty of peace, 
unless the Indian nations are included in it, and restored to 
all the rights, privileges, and territories, which they enjoyed 
in the year 1811," by treaties then existing. "From this 
point the British plenipotentiaries cannot depart." They 
were instructed further to offer for discussion an article 
establishing Indian boundaries, within which the two coun- 
tries should bind themselves not to make acquisitions by 
purchase during a term of years. To the absence of Lord 
Castlereagh, and consequent private correspondence between 
him and his colleagues in London, we owe the knowledge 
that the question of purchasing Indian lands, and the guar- 
antee, would no longer be insisted on ; and that the mili- 
tary control of the lakes was now reduced in purpose to 
the retention of Forts Michilimackinac and Niagara.^ The 
intention remained, however, to insist upon the Indian 
provisions as just stated. 

On September 26, the American commission replied that, 
as thus presented, there was no apparent difference in the 
purposes of the two nations as regarded the substantial wel- 
fare of the Indians themselves. The United States meant 
towards them peace, and the placing them in the position 
in which they stood before the war. " The real difference 
was" in the methods proposed. Great Britain "insisted 
on including the Indians, as allies, in the treaty of peace 

1 American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 717, 

2 Bathurst to Castlereagh, Sept. 16, 1814. Castlereagh Papers MSS, 


between her and the United States." But the Indians con- 
cerned dwelt within the acknowledged bounds of the United 
States, and their political relations towards her were no 
concern of Great Britain; nor could any arrangement be 
admitted which would constitute them independent com- 
munities, in whose behalf Great Britain might hereafter 
claim a right to interfere. The error underlying the British 
demand was the assumption that the Indian tribes were 
independent ; whereas, in their relation to foreign countries, 
they were merely dwellers in the United States, who had 
made war upon her in co-operation with Great Britain. 
The upshot was a mutual agreement, drawn up by the 
British plenipotentiaries, that upon the conclusion of peace 
each state would put an end to hostilities in which it might 
be engaged with the Indians, and would restore them to 
the rights enjoyed before 1811. The Americans accepted 
this, subject to ratification at home, on the ground that, 
whUe it included the Indians in the peace, it did not do so 
as parties to the treaty, and left the manner of settlement 
in the hands of each Government interested. The agree- 
ment thus framed formed one of the articles of the treaty. 
On September 27 the Gazette account of the capture of 
Washington was published in London. Lord Bathurst, 
who in the absence of Castlereagh was acting as Foreign 
Secretary, despatched the news the same day to the com- 
missioners at Ghent, instructing them to assure the Amer- 
cans that it made no difference in the British desire for 
peace, nor would modify unfavorably the requirements as 
to frontier, as yet unstated.^ Liverpool wrote coincidently 
to Castlereagh, suggesting that he should communicate to 
the sovereigns and ministers at Vienna the moderation with 
which the Government was acting, as weU as the tone as- 
sumed by the American commissioners, " so very different 
from what their situation appears to warrant." " I fear the 

1 Castlereagh Memoirs, series iii. voL ii. p. 138. 

424 THE WAR OF 1812 

Emperor of Russia is half an American, and it would be very 
desirable to do away any prejudices which may exist in his 
mind, or in that of Count Nesselrode, on this subject." ^ 
The remark is illuminating as to the reciprocal influence of 
the American contest and the European negotiations, and 
also as to the reasons for declining the proposed Russian 
mediation of 1813. The continent generally, and Russia 
conspicuously, held opinions on neutral maritime rights 
similar to those of the United States. Liverpool had 
already 2 expressed his wish to be well out of the war, 
although expecting decided military successes, and con- 
vinced that the terms as now reduced would be very 
unpopular in England; "but I feel too strongly the in- 
convenience of a continuance not to make me desirous of 
concluding it at the expense of some popularity." 

It was in this spirit, doubtless, that Bathurst instructed 
the envoys that, if the Americans wished to refer the very 
modified proposals, or to sign them conditional upon ratifi- 
cation at home, either proposition would be accepted ; an 
assurance repeated on October 5.^ Were neither alterna- 
tive embraced as to the Indian settlement, the negotiation 
should be closed and the commission return to England. 
British militaiy anticipation then stood high. Not only 
was the capture of Washington over-estimated, but Ross 
and Cochrane had impressed their Government with bril- 
liant expectations. " They are very sanguine about the 
future operations. They intend, on account of the season, 
to proceed in the first instance to the northward, and to 
occupy Rhode Island, where they propose remaining and 
living upon the country until about the first of November. 
They will then proceed southward, destroy Baltimore, if 
they should find it practicable without too much risk, 

1 Liverpool to Castlereagh, September 27. Castlereagh Papers MSS. 

2 September 23. Ibid. 

* Castlereagh Memoirs, series iii. vol. ii. p. 148. 


occupy several important points on the coast of Georgia 
and the Carolinas, take possession of Mobile in the Flor- 
idas, and close the campaign with an attack on New 
Orleans." ^ This was a large programme for a corps of 
the size of Ross', after all allowance made for the ease 
with which Washington had fallen. It is probably to be 
read in connection with the project of sending to America 
very large re-enforcements ; so numerous, indeed, that Lord 
HiU, Wellington's second in the Peninsula, had been desig- 
nated for the command. This purpose had been communi- 
cated to Ross and Cochrane ; and at the time of the capture 
of Washington they had not received the letters notifying 
them that " circumstances had induced his Majesty's Gov- 
ernment to defer their intention of employing so consider- 
able a force in that quarter." ^ For this change of mind 
America doubtless was indebted to European considerations. 
Besides the expectations mentioned, the British Govern- 
ment had well-founded reasons to hope for control of Lake 
Ontiirio, and for substantial results from the handsome 
force placed at the disposal of Sir George Prevost, to 
which the triumphant expedition of Cochrane and Ross 
had been intended only as a diversion. 

Under these flattering anticipations were formulated the 
bases upon which to treat, now that the Indian question 
was out of the way. On October 18 and 20 Bathurst in- 
structed the commissioners to propose, as a starting point, 
the principle that each party should hold what it had, sub- 
ject to modifications for mutual accommodation. "Con- 
sidering the relative situation of the two countries, the 
moderation evinced by his Majesty's Government in 
admitting this principle, (thereby surrendering claim to the 
future conquests), in the present state of the contest, must 
be manifest." When this was accepted, but not before, the 

1 Liverpool to Castlereagh, Sept. 27, 1814. Castlereagh Papers MSS. 
» Ante, p. 385 ; and 384, note. 

426 THE WAR OF 1812 

mutual accommodations were to be suggested. The pres- 
ent captured possessions were stated to be : British, Fort 
Michilimackinac, Fort Niagara, and all the country east of 
the Penobscot ; the American, Fort Erie and Fort Maiden. 
Upon the surrender of the two latter, Great Britain would 
restore the forts at Castine and Machias. She would 
retain Mackinac and Fort Niagara, the latter with a sur- 
rounding strip of five miles of territory ; and in exchange 
(apparently) for " all the country east of the Penob- 
scot," would accept that part of Maine which lies north 
of the Aroostook River, thus insuring between Quebec 
and Halifax a direct communication, wholly under British 

There were some further minor matters of detail, un- 
necessary to mention ; the more so that they did not come 
formally before the American commissioners, who imme- 
diately rejected the proposed principle of uti possidetis^ 
and replied, October 24, that they were not empowered to 
yield any territory, and could treat only on the basis of en- 
tire mutual restitution. This Liverpool testily likened to 
the claim of the French revolutionary Government ^ that 
territory could not be ceded because contrary to the fun- 
damental law of the Republic. In the American case, 
however, it was substantially an affirmation that the mil- 
itary conditions did not warrant surrender. Meanwhile, 
on October 21, the news of Macdonough's victory reached 
London from American sources. Although the British 
official accounts did not arrive until some time later, Liver- 
pool, writing to Castlereagh on that day, admitted that 
there could be no doubt of the defeat of the flotilla.^ De- 
spite this check, the Cabinet still cherished hopes of fur- 
ther successes, and were unwilling yet to abandon entirely 
the last inches of the ground heretofore assumed. " Had 

1 Liverpool to Castlereagh, Oct. 28. Castlereagh Papers MSS. 

2 Liverpool to Castlereagh, Oct. 21, 1814. Ibid. 


it not been for this unfortunate adventure on Lake Cham- 
plain," wrote Bathurst to Castlereagh, " I really believe we 
should have signed a peace by the end of this month. This 
will put the enemy in spirits. The campaign ^vill end in 
our doing much where we thought we should have done 
little, and doing nothing where we expected everything." ^ 
He announced the intention to send Pakenham in Ross' 
place for the New Orleans expedition, and to increase his 
force in the spring, should the war last till then. Mean- 
while, it might be well to let the Powers assembled at 
Vienna understand that, whatever the success in Louisiana, 
the inhabitants would be distinctly told that in no case 
would the country be taken under British protection. 
They might be granted independence, but preferably would 
be urged to place themselves again under the Spanish 
Crown; but they must know that, in treating with the 
United States, neither of these solutions would be made 
by Great Britain a sine qua non. The Government had 
probably taken a distaste to that peremptory formula by 
the unsatisfactory result of the proposition about the 

This care concerning the effect produced upon the course 
of events at Vienna appears forcibly in the lettere of Liver- 
pool. After the receipt of the American commission's 
refusal to accept the basis of the uti possidetis^ he wrote 
to Castlereagh, October 28, that he feared it put an end 
to any hopes of bringing the American war to a conclu- 
sion. The expectation of some favorable change in the 
aspect of affairs, however, decided the ministry to gain 
a little more time before bringing the negotiation to a 
close; and the envoys at Ghent were therefore to be 
instructed to demand a full projet of all the American 
conditions before entering on further discussion. The 

1 Bathurst to Castlereagh, Oct. 21, 1814. Castlereagh Papers MSS. 

428 THE WAR OF 1812 

same day Liverpool sent a second letter,^ in which he said 
distinctly that, in viewing the European settlement, it was 
material to consider that the war with America would 
probably be of some duration ; that enemies should not be 
made in other quarters by holding out too long on the 
questions of Poland, Naples, and Saxony, for he was 
apprehensive that " some of our European allies will not 
be indisposed to favor the Americans ; and, if the Emperor 
of Russia should be desirous of taking up their cause, we 
are well aware from some of Lord Walpole's late communi- 
cations that there is a most powerful party in Russia to 
support him. Looking to a continuance of the American 
war, our financial state is far from satisfactory. We shall 
want a loan for the ensuing year of £27,000,000 or 
X 28, 000,000. The American war will not cost us less 
than £10,000,000, in addition to our peace establishment 
and other expenses. We must expect, therefore, to have 
it said that the property tax is continued for the purpose 
of securing a better frontier for Canada." Castlereagh 
himself had already spoken of the financial conditions as 
" perfectly without precedent in our financial history." ^ 

The renewal of the European war, avowedly dreaded 
by Liverpool,® was thought not impossible by Castlereagh 
and Wellington ; while conditions in France already threat- 
ened an explosion, such as Bonaparte occasioned in the 
succeeding March. " It is impossible," wrote Wellington, 
" to conceive the distress in which individuals of all de- 
scriptions are. The only remedy is the revival of Bona- 
parte's system of war and plunder ; and it is evident that 
cannot be adopted during the reign of the Bourbons."* 

1 Castlereagh Papers MSS. 

2 Castlereagh to Sir H. Wellesley, Sept. 9, 1814. Memoirs, series iii. vol. 
ii. p. 112. 

8 Liverpool to Castlereagh, Nov. 2, 1814. Castlereagh Papers MSS. 
* Wellington to Liverpool, Nov. 9, 1814. Castlereagh Memoirs, series 
iii. vol. ii. p. 187. 


Neither he nor Castlereagh doubted the imminence of the 
danger. " It sounds incredible," wrote the latter, " that 
Talleyrand should treat the notion of any agitation at 
Paris as wholly unfounded." ^ A plot was believed to 
exist, which embraced as one of its features the seizing of 
the Duke, and holding him as a hostage. He himself 
thought it possible, and saw no means in the French Gov- 
ernment's hands adequate to resist. " You already know 
my opinion of the danger at Paris. . . . The event may 
occur any night, and if it should occur, I don't think I 
should be allowed to depart. My safety depends upon the 
King's ; " ^ but he was characteristically averse to any step 
which bore the appearance of precipitate withdrawal. 

While the American negotiators were drawing up the 
prqjet which they had decided to present in response to the 
British demand, the combination of circumstances just 
stated led the British ministry to resolve on removing 
Wellington from Paris on some pretext, lest his services 
should be lost to them in the emergency now momentarily 
di'eaded. The urgency for peace with America co-operated 
to determine the ostensible reason, which was almost a 
true one. The American command was offered to him. 
" The Duke of Wellington would restore confidence to the 
army, place the militaiy operations on a proper footing, 
and give us the best chance of peace. I know he is very 
anxious for the restoration of peace with America, if it can 
be made upon terms at all honorable. It is a material con- 
sideration, likewise, that if we shall be disposed for the 
sake of peace to give up something of our just pretensions, 
we can do this more creditably through him than through 
any other person." ^ Liverpool voiced the conclusions of 
the Cabinet, and it would be difficult for words to mani- 

1 Castlereagh to Wellington, Nor. 21, 1814. Castlereagh Memoirs, series 
ill. vol. ii. p. 205. 

2 Wellington to Liverpool, Nov. 7 and 9, 1814. Ibid., pp. 186, 190. 
8 Liverpool to Castlereagh, Nov. 4, 1814. Castlereagh MSS. 

430 THE WAR OF 1812 

fest more forcibly anxiety to escape from a situation. Well- 
ington himself drew attention to ;fehis. " Does it not occur 
to your lordship that, by appointing me to go to America 
at this moment, you give ground for belief, all over Europe, 
that your affairs there are in a much worse situation than 
they really are? and will not my nomination at this 
moment be a triumph to the Americans, and their friends 
here and elsewhere ? " ^ Conditions were alarming, but 
the action resembled panic. 

The offer, which was really a request, brought Welling- 
ton by a side wind into the American negotiations, and 
enabled him to give the Government the weight of his 
name and authority in concluding a peace otherwise than 
on their " just pretensions." The war, he said, has been 
honorable to Great Britain ; meaning doubtless that, con- 
sidering the huge physical mass and the proximity of the 
United States, it was well done to have escaped injury, as 
it was militarily disgraceful to the American Government, 
with such superiority, to have been so impotent. But, he 
continued, neither I nor any one else can achieve success, 
in the way of conquests, unless you have naval superiority 
on the lakes. That was what was needed ; " not a general, 
nor general officers and troops. Till that superiority is 
acquired, it is impossible, according to my notion, to main- 
tain an army in such a situation as to keep the enemy out 
of the whole frontier, much less to make any conquest 
from the enemy, which, with those superior means, might, 
with reasonable hopes of success, be undertaken. . . . The 
question is, whether we can obtain this naval superiority 
on the lakes. If we cannot, I shall do you but little good 
in America ; and I shall go there only to prove the truth 
of Prevost's defence, and to sign a peace which might as 
well be signed now." This endorsed not only Prevost's 

1 Wellington to Liverpool, Nov. 18, 1814. Castlereagh Letters, series 
iii. vol. ii. p. 203. 


retreat, but also the importance of Macdonough's victory. 
The Duke then added frankly that, in the state of the war, 
they had no right to demand any concession of territory. 
He brushed contemptuously aside the claim of occupying 
the country east of the Penobscot, on the ground of Sher- 
brooke's few companies at Castine, ready to retreat at a 
moment's notice. " If this reasoning be true, why stipulate 
for the uti possidetis? " ^ 

Penned November 9, the day before the American nego- 
tiators at Ghent handed in their requested projet^ this 
letter may be regarded as decisive. November 13, Liver- 
pool replied that the ministry was waiting anxiously for 
the American projet^ . . . and, "without entering into 
particulars, I can assure you that we shall be disposed to 
meet your views upon the points on which the negotiation 
appears to turn at present ; " the points being the uti possi- 
detis, with the several details of possession put forward by 
Bathurst. The American paper was in London before 
the 18th, when Liverpool wrote to Castlereagh, "I think 
we have determined, if all other points can be satisfactorily 
settled, not to continue the war for the purpose of obtain- 
ing, or securing, any acquisition of territory. We have 
been led to this determination by the consideration of the 
unsatisfactory state of the negotiations at Vienna, and by 
that of the alarming situation of the interior of France." 
" Lender such circumstances, it has appeared to us desirable 
to bring the American war, if possible, to a conclusion. " ^ 
The basis of the status quo ante helium, sustained all along 
by the American commission, was thus definitely accepted, 
and so stated formally by Bathui-st.^ 

This fundamental agreement ha^'ing been reached, the 

1 Wellington to Liverpool, Xot. 9, 1814. Castlereagh Memoirs, series iii. 
vol. ii. p. 189. 

2 Liverpool to Castlereagh, Nov. 18, 1814. Castlereagh MSS. 

3 Bathurst to the commissiouers, Dec. 6, 1814. Castlereagh Memoirs, 
series iii. vol. ii. p. 214. 

432 THE WAR OF 1812 

negotiations ran rapidly to a settlement without further 
serious hitch; a conclusion to which contributed power- 
fully the increasing anxiety of the British ministry over 
the menacing aspect of the Continent. The American 
'projet^ besides the customary formal stipulations as to 
procedure for bringing hostilities to a close, consisted of 
articles embodying the American positions on the subjects 
of impressment and blockade, with claims for indemnity 
for losses sustained by irregular captures and seizures 
durincr the late hostilities between France and Great 
Britain ; a provision aimed at the Orders in Council. These 
demands, which covered the motives of the war, and may be 
regarded as the offensive side of the American negotiation, 
were pronounced inadmissible at once by the British, and 
were immediately abandoned. Their presentation had been 
merely formal ; the United States Government, within its 
own council chamber, had already recognized that they 
could not be enforced. The projet included the agree- 
ment previously framed concerning the Indians ; who were 
thus provided for in the treaty, though excluded from any 
recognition as parties to it, or as independent political 
communities. This was the only demand which Great 
Britain can be said fairly to have carried, and it was so 
far a reduction from her original requirement as to be 
unrecognizable. An American proposition, pledging each 
of the contracting parties not again to employ Indians in 
war, was rejected. 

The remaining articles of the projet, although entirely 
suitable to a treaty of peace, were not essentially con- 
nected with the war. The treaty merely gave a suitable 
occasion for presenting them. They provided for fixing, 
by mixed commissions, the boundary lines between the Brit>- 
ish possessions and the United States. These the Treaty 
of 1783 had stated in terms which had as yet received no 

1 American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii. p. 735. 


proper topographical determination. From the mouth of 
the St. Croix River, and the islands within it and in the 
adjacent sea, around, north and west, as far as the head of 
Lake Superior, the precise course of the bounding line 
needed definition by surveyors. These propositions were 
agreed to ; but when it came to similar provision for set- 
tling the boundary of the new territories acquired by the 
Louisiana purchase, as far as the Rocky Mountains, difl&- 
culties arose. In the result it was agreed that the deter- 
mination of the boundary should be carried as far as the 
most northwestern point of the Lake of the Woods, "in 
conformity with the true intent of the said Treaty of Peace 
of one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three." The 
treaty was silent on the subject of boundary westward of 
the Lake of the Woods, and this article of the prcjet was 
dropped. It differed indeed from its associates, in provid- 
ing the settlement for a new question, and not the definition 
of an old settlement. In conclusion, the British commis- 
sioners obtained the adoption of an agreement that both 
parties " would use their best endeavors to promote the en- 
tire abolition of the slave trade." In Great Britain the 
agitation for this measure had reached proportions which 
were not the least among the embarrassments of the minis- 
try ; and at this critical juncture the practical politicians 
conducting affairs found themselves constrained by a popu- 
lar demand to press the subject upon the less sympathetic 
statesmen of the Cabinet. 

The American commissioners had made a good fight, 
and shown complete appreciation of the factors working 
continuously in their behalf. To the end, and even more 
evidently at the end, was apparent the increasing anxiety 
of the British Government, the reasonable cause for it 
in European conditions, and the immense difficulty un- 
der such circumstances of accomplishing any substantial 
militar}- successes in America. The Duke of Wellington 

VOL. II. — 28 

434 THE WAR OF 1812 

wrote that " all the American armies of which I ever read 
would not beat out of a field of battle the troops that went 
from Bordeaux last summer ; " ^ but still, " his opinion is 
that no military advantage can be expected if the war goes 
on, and he would have great reluctance in undertaking the 
command unless we made a serious effort first to obtain 
peace, without insisting upon keeping any part of our con- 
quests." 2 On December 23, Liverpool sent a long and 
anxious letter to Castlereagh, in reply to his late de- 
spatches. The fear of a renewal of war on the Continent 
is prominent in his consideration, and it was recognized 
that the size of the European armaments, combined with 
the pecuniary burden of maintaining them, tended of 
itself to precipitate an outbreak. Should that occur, 
France could scarcely fail to be drawn in ; and France, if 
involved, might direct her efforts towards the Low Coun- 
tries, " the only object on the continent which would be 
regarded as a distinct British interest of sufficient magni- 
tude to reconcile the country to war," with its renewed 
burden of taxation. " We are decidedly and unanimously 
of opinion that all your efforts should be directed to the 
continuance of peace. There is no mode in which the 
arrangements in Poland, Germany, and Italy, can be settled, 
consistently with the stipulations of the Treaty of Paris, 
which is not to be preferred, under present circumstances, 
to a renewal of hostilities between the Continental Powers." 
Coincidently with this, in another letter of the same day, 
he mentions the meetings which have tkken place on ac- 
count of the property tax, and the spirit which had arisen 
on the subject. "This, as well as other considerations, 
make us most anxious to get rid of the American war. " ^ 
The Treaty of Ghent was signed December 24, 1814, 

1 Castlereagh Memoirs, series iii. vol. ii. p. 188. 

2 Liverpool to Castlereagh, Nov. 18, 1814. Castlereagh MSS. 
« Ibid., Dec. 23, 1814. Castlereagh MSS. 


by the eight commissioners. The last article provided for 
its ratification, without alteration, at Washington, within 
four months from the signature. A charge d'affaires to 
the United States was appointed, and directed to proceed 
at once in a British ship of war to America, with the Prince 
Regent's ratification, to be exchanged against that of the 
President; but he was especially instructed that the ex- 
change should not be made unless the ratification by the 
United States was without alteration, addition, or exclu- 
sion, in any form whatsoever. Hostilities were not to cease 
until such action had taken place. The British Govern- 
ment were apparently determined that concessions wrung 
from them, by considerations foreign to the immediate 
struggle, should not be subjected to further modification 
in the Senate. 

Mr. Baker, the British cTiarge, sailed in the British 
sloop of war " Favorite," accompanied by Mr. Carroll bear- 
ing the despatches of the American commissioners. The 
" Favorite " arrived in New York on Saturday, February 11. 
The treaty was ratified by the President, as it stood, by 
and with the advice and consent of the Senate, on the 17th 
of February, 1815. 

A year after the conclusion of peace, a weighty opinion 
as to the effect of the War of 1812 upon the national his- 
tory was expressed by one of the commissioners, Mr. Albert 
Grallatin. For fifteen years past, no man had been in closer 
touch with the springs of national life, national policy, 
and national action; as representative in Congress, and 
as intimate adviser of two consecutive Presidents, in his 
position as Secretary of the Treasury. His experience, 
the perspicuity of his intellect, and his lucidity of thought 
and expression, give particular value to his conclusions; 
the more so that to some extent they are the condemnation, 

436 THE WAR OF 1812^ 

regretfully uttered, of a scheme of political conduct with 
the main ideas of which he had been closely identified. 
He wrote : " The war has been productive of evil and of 
good, but I think the good preponderates. Independent of 
the loss of lives, and of the property of individuals, the war 
has laid the foundations of permanent taxes and military 
establishments, which the Republicans^ had deemed un- 
favorable to the happiness and free institutions of the 
country. But under our former system we were becoming 
too selfish, too much attached exclusively to the acquisi- 
tion of wealth, above all, too much confined in our political 
feelings to local and state objects. The war has renewed 
and reinstated the national feelings and character which 
the Revolution had given, and which were daily lessening. 
The people have now more general objects of attachment, 
with which their pride and political opinions are connected. 
They are more Americans ; they feel and act more as a 
nation ; and I hope that the permanency of the Union is 
thereby better secured." ^ 

Such, even at so early a date, could be seen to be the 
meaning of the War of 1812 in the progress of the national 
history. The people, born by war to independence, had by 
war again been transformed from childhood, absorbed in 
the visible objects immediately surrounding it, to youth 
with its dawning vision and opening enthusiasms. They 
issued from the contest, battered by adversity, but through 
it at last fairly possessed by the conception of a national 
unity, which during days of material prosperity had strug- 
gled in vain against the predominance of immediate inter- 
ests and local prepossessions. The conflict, indeed, was 
not yet over. Two generations of civic strife were still 
to signalize the slow and painful growth of the love for 

1 The contemporary name of the political party to which Jefferson, Madi- 
son, and Gallatin belonged. 

2 Writings of Gallatin, May 7, 1816, vol. i. p. 700. 


" The Union " ; that personification of national being, upon 
which can safely fasten the instinct of human nature to 
centre devotion upon a person and a name. But, through 
these years of fluctuating affections, the work of the War 
of 1812 was continuously felt. Men had been forced out 
of themselves. More and more of the people became more 
Americans ; they felt and acted more as a nation ; and 
when the moment came that the unity of the state was 
threatened from within, the passion for the Union, con- 
ceived in 1812, and nurtured silently for years in homes 
and hearts, asserted itself. The price to be paid was heavy. 
Again war desolated the land ; but through war the per- 
manency of the Union was secured. Since then, relieved 
from internal weakness, strong now in the maturity of 
manhood, and in a common motive, the nation has taken 
its place among the Powers of the earth. 


ACTIOSS, Land. i. : Detroit, 346; 
Queenston, 357 ; Niagara, 358 ; 
Frenchtown, 370. ii. : York [To- 
ronto]. 36, 55 ; Fort George, 38 ; 
Sackett's Harbor, 42 ; Stony Creek, 
46 ; Beaver Dam, 47 ; Fort Meigs, 
68 ; Fort Stephenson, 73 ; The 
Thames, 103 ; Chrystler's Farm, 
115 ; Chippewa, 295 ; Lundv's Lane, 
306; Fort Erie, 314,316; Bladens- 
bnrg, 346; Piattsburg, 366; New 
Orleans, 394. 

Actions, Naval, i. : Elliott's capture 
of " Caledonia " and " Detroit," 
354 ; " Constitution " and " Guer- 
riere," 330 ; " Frolic " and " Wasp," 

j^412; "Macedonian" and "United 
States," 416. ii. : " Constitution " 
and " Java," 3 ; " Hornet " and 
" Peacock," 7 ; squadron engage- 
ments on Lake Ontario, 1813, Au- 
gust 10, 56; September 11, 60; 
September 28, 107 ; battle of Lake 
Erie, 76 ; " Chesapeake " and 
" Shannon," 135 ; " Boxer " and 
"Enterprise," 188; "Argus" and 
"Pelican," 217; "Essex'' with 
"Phoebe" and "Cherub," 249; 
" Wasp " and " Reindeer," 254 ; 
" Wasp " and " Avon," 256 ; " Eper- 
vier " and " Peacock," 259 ; battle 
of Lake Champlaiu, 377 ; gunboat 
squadron on Lake Borgne, 389 ; 
" President " with British squad- 
ron, 398 ; " Constitution " with 
" Cyane " and " Levant," 405 ; 
" Hornet " and " Penguin," 407. 
Actions, Privateer, ii. : " Globe " with 
British packets, 226 ; " Decatur " 
and " Dominica," 233 ; " Comet " 
and "Hibernia," 234; "Saucy 
Jack " and " Pelhara," 235 ; 
" Saucy Jack " with " Volcano " 
and " Golden Fleece," 235 ; " Kemp " 
with seven British merchantmen, 
237 ; " Chasseur " and " St. Law- 
rence," 238. 

Acts of Congress. To protect American 
shipping, i. 76, 80; Non-Importa- 
tion Act, against Great Britain, 
April, 1806, 113, 131, 183 ; Embargo 
Act, December 22, 1807, 182; Act 
for the better Enforcement of the 
Embargo, January 9, 1809, 208; 
partial repeal of Embargo Act — 
" Non-Intercourse " Act against 
Great Britain and France, March 1, 
1809,210,211,213,214; Act repeal- 
ing Non-Intercourse Act, with a 
substitute. May 1, 1810, 2.34, 235; 
supplementary Act, revi\'ing Non- 
Intercourse against Great Britain 
alone, March 2, 1811, 248, 249; 
Embargo Act for ninety days, war 
measure, April 4, 1812, 263 ;" Decla- 
ration of War, June 18, 1812, 279. 

Adams, Jolm. Minister to Great 
Britain. French colonial principles, 
i. 28 ; British interest in navigation, 
11, 30 (and note); public opinion 
in England, as observed by him, 47, 
63, 64, 69, 79 ; remonstrates against 
impressment of American seamen, 
1 19. President of United States, in- 
structs against impressment, 121 ; 
care for the navy, ii. 213. 

Adams, John Quincy. Senator from 
Massachusetts. Opinions as to Or- 
ders in Council, i. 178-181 ; opinions 
on a navy, 1 86 ; Minister to Russia, ii. 
411 ; commissioner to treat for 
peace, 412. 

"Adams." American frigate. Block- 
aded in Potomac, ii. 162, 169-170, 
174; escapes, 178; cruise of, 226, 
261 ; runs ashore on Isle au Haut, 
353 ; takes refuge in Penobscot, and 
destroyed to escape capture, 354. 

Allen, William H. Commander, U. S. 
N. Commands "Argus," ii. 216; 
killed in action, 218. 

" America." Private armed ship, i. 
398 ; ii. 229. 

"Argus." American brig of war, i. 



314-415 ; captured by " Pelican," ii. 

"Avon." British brig of war. Sunk 
by U. S. S. " Reindeer," ii. 256. 

Armstrong, John. U. S. Minister to 
France at the time of the Berlin 
Decree, i. 1 72-1 74, 1 81 , 1 82, 236-238, 
240, 244. Advice to Eustis, Secre- 
tary of War, before the outbreali of 
hostilities, 309, 339. Secretary of 
War, 31, 33, 39, 45. 104-106, 110- 
112, 117, 120, 122, 266 (note), 278, 
291-293, 319, 343,344. 

BAINBRIDGE, William. Captain, 
U. S. N. Applies for furlough, be- 
cause of the condition of the navy, 
i. 257 ; opinion as to employment of 
navy in war, 318; mentions public 
opinion in Boston, 393; commands 
squadron, 407 ; his plans for the 
cruise, ii. 2 ; captures Java, 4 ; in- 
structions to Lawrence for cruise of 
" Hornet," 7 ; returns to the United 
States, 7 ; commands Boston navy 
yard, 135, 1.53, 186. 

Barclay, Robert H. Commander, R.N. 
vSent to lakes by Warren, ii. 28 ; or- 
dered by Yeo to command on Lake 
Erie, 29 ; difficulty in reaching his 
command, 39 ; operations prior to 
battle of Lake Erie, 41, 69-74; 
battle of Lake Erie, 76; merits of 
his conduct, 94. 

Barclay, Thomas. British Consul- 
General at New York. On im- 
pressment question, i. 118, 122; on 
effects of embargo on seamen, 192. 

Barlow, Joel. U. S. Minister to 
France, in succession to Armstrong, 
i. 176, 193, 264, 271-273. 

Barney, Joshua. Commodore by cour- 
tesy. Commandsprivateer"Rossie," 
i. 395-398; commands Chesapeake 
flotilla, ii. 336-344 ; gallant conduct 
of himself and men at Bladensburg, 
347, 348. 

Bassano, Duke of. French Minister of 
Foreign Affairs. Presents to tlie 
American minister the spurious 
Decree of April 28, 1811, i. 272. 

Bathurst, Earl. British Secretary for 
War and Colonies. Quoted, ii. 100, 
331 (note), 383, 422, 423, 424, 425, 
426, 427, 431. 

Berkeley, George C. Vice-Admiral, 
R. N., commanding North American 
station. Issues the order to search 
the U. S. S. " Chesapeake," i. 156; 

recalled from his command in conse- 
quence, 167, but given within a year 
the important command at Lisbon, 
168; British Government refuses 
further punishment for his action, 

Bidclle, James. Commander, U. S. N. 
Commands "Hornet" when she cap- 
tures " Penguin," ii. 407. 

Black Rock. Selected by Elliott as 
American naval station on Lake 
Erie, i. 355, 374; chanjjed by Chaun- 
cev, 375 ; mentioned in operations, 
355, 358, 374, 377 ; ii. 34, 40, 41, 62, 
71, 121. 

Blakely, Johnstone. Commander, 
U. S. N. Commands " Enterprise," 
ii. 187; commands "Wasp," 253; 
captures " Reindeer," 254 ; sinks 
" Avon," 256 ; lost at sea, 257. 

Blockades. General principle deter- 
mining legality of, i. 99, 110, 145; 
position of United States concern- 
ing, defined, 110; that of May 16, 
1806, illustrates difference between 
United States and Great Britain, 
111; Napoleon's definition of the 
right of blockade, 142-144; Mar- 
shall, in 1800, and Pinkney, 1811, in*, 
cidentally support Napoleon's view, 
146, 147 ; effect of this view upon 
sea power, and upon Great Britain, 
147 ; effect upon the Civil War of the 
United States, had it been conceded, 
148; the Orders in Council of 1807 
are admitted by Great Britain to 
usurp the privileges of, without 
complying with the obligations, 
177, though modelled on the general 
plan of, 179; distinction between 
military and commercial, 286; in 
essence and effect, a form of com- 
merce destruction, 287 ; as such, the 
weapon of the stronger, 288 ; of 
Chesapeake and Delaware, — com- 
mercial, — by British, notified, De- 
cember 26, 1812, ii. 9; extended to 
coast south of Narragansett Hay, 
March 30 and November 16, 1813, 
10; to whole United States coast, 
April and May, 1814, 1 1 ; the last a 
defiance in form of the United 
States claim concerning, 11 ; effects 
of the British commercial, upon 
United States, 177-187, 193-208; 
American definition of, rejected as 
inadmissible at the treaty of peace, 

"Boxer." British brig of war. Cap- 



tured by " Enterprise," ii. 188. See 
also note to chap. xiii. 

Brock, Isaac. British general. Lieu- 
tenant Governor, and military com- 
mander in Upper Canada, i. 337 ; 
his professional opinions, 304, 308 ; 
his successful action against Hull 
for the preservation of the northwest, 
341-348; returns to the Niagara 
frontier, 351 ; killed in action at 
Queenston, 357. 

Broke, Philip B. r. Captain, R. N. 
Commands frigate "Shannon"; sen- 
ior officer of vessels of New York, i. 
325 ; accompanies West India con- 
voy, 326 ; chase of " Constitution," 
32V; blockading Boston, ii. 133; 
singular merit of, 133 ; sends chal- 
lenge to Lawrence, 134 ; action 
with, and capture of, U. S. S." Chesa- 
peake," 135. 

Brown, Jacob. American general. 
First in the militia, successfully de- 
fends Sackett's Harbor, ii. 42; ap- 
pointed brigadier general in the 
army, 45 ; stationed at Sackett's 
Harbor, 1814, 278 ; campaign on Ni- 
agara peninsula, 280-318 ; wounded 
at Lundy's Lane, 311; defence of 
Fort Erie, 314-318 ; returns to Sack- 
ett's at end of the campaign, 323. 

Burrows, William. Lieutenant, 
U. S. N. Commands " Enterprise " 
when she captures " Boxer," ii. 188 ; 
killed in the action, 1 89. 

" Caledosia." British armed brig 
on lakes. Aids at capture of Mack- 
inac, i. 341 ; captured by Lieutenant 
Elliott, 355 ; takes part as American 
in battle of Lake Erie, iL 81 ; lost, 

Calhoun, John C. Member of Amer- 
ican Congress. Confidence concern- 
ing the conquest of Canada, i. 303. 

Campbell, Hugh G. Captain, U. S. N., 
commanding Georgia coast district. 
Reports on coast conditions, ii. 185, 
186, 195, 196, 197, 198. 

Canada. Expected by British writers 
to take the place of the United 
States in supplying West Indies, 
i. 45, 48 ; unable to do so, 64, 
86 ; benefited, however, by enforce- 
ment of navigation laws against 
the United States, 78, 79 ; pro- 
priety of invasion of by the Uni- 
ted States, in 1812, considered, 292- 
294; object of invasion of, defined 

by Monroe, 293; how regarded in 
England, ii. 356. 

Canning, George. British Secretary of 
State for Foreign Affairs. Takes 
office, i. 134; statement as to the 
British right of impressment from 
foreign merchant vessels, 115; re- 
fusal to re-ojjen treaty negotiations 
with Monroe and Pinkney, 135 ; 
characteristics of his letters, 1 54 ; 
negotia*:ions with Monroe, concern- 
ing the "Chesapeake" affair, 156- 
168; instructions to Erskine, for 
proposals to United States, 215-219 ; 
Erskine's action disavowed by, and 
Jackson sent in place, 221 ; mis- 
quotation of, by Robert Smith, 
American Secretary of State, 226, 
227; duel with Castlereagh, 229; 
succeeded in office by Lord Welles- 
ley, 229. 

Carden, John S. Captain, R. N. 
Commands " Macedonian " captured 
by " United States," i. 416. 

Castlereagh, Lord. British Secretary of 
State for Foreign Affairs. Duel with 
Canning, i. 229 ; remains in office 
after Perceval's assassination, 273 ; 
opinion on political movements in 
United States immediately before 
war, 274 ; concerning Napoleon's al- 
leged decree of April 28, 181 1, 276 ; 
instructions to tlie peace commis- 
sion at Ghent, 415-418; quoted in 
connection with the peace nego- 
tiations, 410, 417, 418, 420, 428, 

Chalmers, George. British writer on 
political and economical subjects. 
Quoted, i. 21, 26, 32, 36, 50, 68, 77 

Champagny, Due de Cadore. French 
Minister of Foreign Affairs. Quoted 
in connection with Napoleon's De- 
crees, i. 174. 175, 181; celebrated 
letter of, August 5, 1810, 237 ; ac- 
cepted by American Government as 
a valid revo<ation of the Decrees, 
238 ; di.«cnssiun of, 239-242 ; re- 
jected as a revocation by Great 
Britain, 242. 

Champlain, lake. Natural highway 
to Canada, i. 309 ; neglected by 
American Government in 1812, i. 
351, 359; ii. 30, 357; not under 
Channcey's command, i. 361 ; 
events on, 1812 and 1813, ii. 357- 
360; Sir George Prevost's expedi- 
tion, 362-381 ; battle of Lake Cham- 



plain, 377-381 ; effects of battle on 
conditions of peace, 382 (see also 

Chauncey, Isaac. Captain, U. S. N. 
Ordered to command on Lakes Erie 
and Ontario, i. 354,361 ; early meas- 
ures of preparation, 362-364 ; cruises 
in 1812, 364, 365; lays up for the 
winter, 366; preparations on Lake 
Erie, 374-376 ; Commander Perry 
ordered as second to, 376 ; effects 
of energy of, ii. 28; first plan of 
campaign, 1813, 30; second plan, 
33 ; comment upon, 34 ; expedition 
against York, 36 ; operations about 
Niagara peninsula, 37-41 ; impres- 
sion produced on, by attack on Sack- 
ett's Harbor, 45 ; naval campaign 
of, 1813, July 21-September 28, SI- 
CO, 106-109 ; engagements with 
British squadron, August 10, 56- 
59; September 11, 60; September 
28, 106 ; professional characteristics 
shown, 28, 35, 40, 45, 52, 56, 60, 61, 
63,65,95, 108, 109, 110, 117, 294, 
298-302, 305-306, 316,323; recom- 
mendations for campaign of 1814, 
122 ; singular inaction of, in June 
and July, 1814, 298-300; contro- 
versy with General Brown, 300- 
302 ; correspondence of Department 
with, 300 ; Decatur ordered to re- 
lieve, 300; subsequent movements 
of, 314-316, 323. 

" Cherub." British sloop of war. Takes 
part in attack on " Essex," ii. 247- 

Chesapeake Bay. Blockade of, li. 9 ; 
operations in, 1813, 16, 156-158, 
160-169; singular contraband trade 
in, 1813, 170-175 ; military expo- 
sure of, 159, 178,202; operations in, 
1814, 336-351. 

*' Chesapeake." American frigate. 
Attack upon by British ship of war 
" Leopard," i. 3, 134, 155; negotia- 
tions concerning the affair, 156-170, 
222, 228, 251; settlement of, 255; 
cruise of, in 1813, ii. 13 ; action with, 
and capture by, the " Shannon," 

Cheves, Langdon. Member of Ameri- 
can Congress. Report recommend- 
ing increase of navy, i. 260-263. 

Clay, Henri). Member of American 
Congress. Favors increase of navy, 
i. 260; expects rapid conquest of 
Canada, 304 ; calculations on Bona- 
parte's success in llussia, 390 ; ap- 

pointed peace commissioner at 
Ghent, ii. 413. 

Cochrane, Sir Alexander. Vice-Admi- 
ral, R. N. Appointed commander- 
in-chief on the American station, in 
succession to Warren, ii. 330, 382 
(note) ; bis retaliatory order for the 
burning of Newark, 334-335 ; oper- 
ations in the Chesapeake, 1814, 
340-351 ; plans for action against 
New Orleans, 383-388; operations 
against New Orleans and Mobile, 
388-396 ; capture of Fort Bowyer, 
Mobile, 397. 

Cockburn, George. Rear Admiral, 
R. N. Second in command to 
Warren, ii. 155; expedition to the 
upper Chesapeake, 1813, 157, 158; 
in the Potomac, 168; American 
vessel licensed by, 175 ; attack at 
Ocracoke inlet, N. C, 204 ; at cap- 
ture of Washington, 348, 349 ; ex- 
pedition against Cumberland Island, 
Georgia, 388. 

Colonies. Relations of colonies to 
mother countries in respect to trade, 
during the period of American de- 
pendence, i. 24-28 ; Montesquieu's 
phrase, 27 ; Bryan Edwards' state- 
ment, 28 ; John Adams' observa- 
tion, 28 ; supposed effect of, upon 
the carrying trade, 25, 26, 49, 50, 65, 
and naval power, 51, 52; the entrepot 
monopoly, derived from colonial sys- 
tem, 12, 16, 24 ; renewed by the Or- 
ders in Council of 1807,27; char- 
acteristics of tlie West India group 
of colonies, 32, 33, and of those now 
the United States, 34, 35 ; their 
mutual relations, as colonies, 31, 35, 
36 ; the imperial inter-action of tlie 
mother country, and the two groups 
of colonies, 52, 5.5, 63 ; British hopes 
of reinstating this condition, after 
the Revolution, by substituting Can- 
ada and Nova Scotia for the lost 
continental colonies, 48, 64 ; effect of 
colonial traditions upon events sub- 
sequent to American independence, 
65-70, 75-79 ; tendency to re- 
impose colonial restriction upon the 
new states, a cause of War of 1812, 
40, 87, 88, 90-92, 177, 178. 
Committee, of the Privy Council of 
Great Britain, 1791. Report on the 
conditions of British commerce 
since tlie independence of tlie United 
States, and the probable effect of 
American legislation for tlie protec- 



tion of American carrving trade, i. 

' Constellation." American frigate. 
Hopelessly blockaded in Norfolk 
throughout the war, ii. 11, 162, 178. 

" Constitution." American frigate. 
Chased by British squadron, i. 328 ; 
captures the " Guerriere," i. 330- 
335 ; the " Java," ii. 3-7 ; the 
" Cyane " and " Levant," 404-406. 

Continental. Distinctive significance 
of the term, applied to the colonial 
system of Great Britain in North 
America, i. 32 ; Bermuda and the 
Bahamas reckoned oflScially among 
the continental colonies, 31 (note). 

Continental System of Napoleon. Ex- 
traordinary political character of, 
defined, i. 152, 153, 174; co-opera- 
tion of the United States desired in, 
173; and practically given by the 
United States, 176. 

Cooper, James Fenimore. American 
naval historian. Quoted, ii. 83-87, 
101 (note), 108, 110, 135, 138, 188 

Craney Island, near Norfolk. Attack 
on by the British, in 1813, ii. 164- 

Croghan, George. Major, U. S. Army. 
Gallant defence of Fort Stephenson, 

1813, ii. 73; commands troops in 
the abortive military and naval ex- 
pedition against Michilimackinae, 

1814, 324. 

" Cyane." British ship of war. Cap- 
tured bv the " Constitution," ii. 404- 

D ACRES, James R. Captain, R. N., 
commanding " Guerriere." His 
defence before the Court Martial, 
i. 334. 

Dearborn, Henry. American general. 
Appointed, i. 337 ; age, 337 ; char- 
acterized by a British oflBcer, 351 ; 
negotiates a suspension of hostilities, 
which is disapproved, 352 ; inac- 
tivity, 359; ii. 39, 47, 48; appre- 
hensions, ii. 32, 47 ; relieved from 
command, 48. 

Decatur, Stephen. Captain, U. S. N. 
Commands a squadron, i. 314 ; plan 
for employment of the navy in war, 
317, 415 ; accompanies John Rod- 
gers on the first cruise of the war, 
322-324 ; sails on an independent 
cruise, 407, 408, 415 ; action between 
the " United States " and " Mace- 

donian," 416 ; in 1813 unable to get 
to sea with a squadron, ii. 25, 148, 
which is blocked in New London for 
the rest of the war, 149 ; ordered 
to relieve Chauncey on the lakes, 
300; appointed to command frigate 
" President," 397 ; action with " En- 
dymion," 399 ; surrenders to British 
squadron. 400-403. 

Decrees, Napoleon's. Berlin, Novem- 
ber 21, 1806, i. 141-148; its design, 
and counter design of Great Britain, 
149; rigid enforcement of, 172; 
Milan, December 17,1807, 180, 189, 
(note), 205 ; Bavonne, April 17, 
1808, 189, 2a3 ; Rambouillet, March 
23, 1810, 235, 236; alleged revoca- 
tion of, by Champagny's letter of 
August 5,' 1810, 237-242; spurious 
Decree of April 28, 1811, 282. 

Delaware Bay. Blockade of, and 
operations in, ii. 9, 16, 158-160. 

Dent, John H. Captain, U. S. N., 
commanding South Carolina coast 
district. Reports on coast condi- 
tions, ii. 15, 196, 203 (and note), 204. 

"Detroit." British armed brig (late 
American " Adams " ). Captured by 
Elliott on Lake Erie, i. 354-356. 

"Detroit." British flagship at battle 
of Lake Erie, ii. 73, 77 ; condition 
when surrendered, 94. 

Direct Trade. To foreign countries, 
forbidden to colonies, i. 24-26 ; 
common practice of all maritime 
states, 27, 28 ; stress laid upon this 
idea in Great Britain, 75, 76, 83, 84, 
96 ; question of what constitutes, 
100; decision adverse to American 
navigation, by Sir William Scott, 
101 ; practical effect of the decision, 

Doicnie, George. Commander, R. N. 
Commands the British squadron 
on Lake Champlain, ii. 372-375 ; 
his plan of action, 377 ; killed in the 
battle, 378. 

Drummond, Sir Gordon. Civil and 
military Governor of Upper Canada, 
ii. 120; his plans for the winter of 
1813-1814, 276-278; his apprecia- 
tions of the strength of Kingston 
and of Sackett's Harbor, 280; de- 
pendence upon the control of the 
water, i. 301, 302; ii. 290, 302-306, 
308-309, 314-317; comments on 
American troops, 295 ; campaign of 
1814 — arrival at York, 307; plan 
of action, 308-309 ; battle of Lundy's 



Lane, 310-312; assault on Fort 
Erie, 314 ; American sortie against, 
316; line of the " Cliippewa," 317, 

Elliott, Jesse D. Commander U. S. 
N. Serves under Chauiicey on the 
lake, i. 354, 363 ; captures British 
brigs " Caledonia " and " Detroit," 
355 ; selects Black Rock for naval 
station on Lake Erie, 374 ; ordered as 
second to Ferry, on Lake Erie, ii. 74 ; 
conduct in the battle, 78-80, 83-88, 
96 ; in command on Lake Erie, after 
Perry's detachment, 104. 

Embargo, of 1808. Approved by Presi- 
dent Jefferson, December 22, 1807, 
i. 182; its aims, 183-186 ; its effects 
in the United States, 186-207 ; upon 
West Indies, 196-198 ; upon Canada 
and Nova Scotia, 198; upon Great 
Britain, 200, 201 ; Act for better 
Enforcement, January 9, 1809, 208; 
repeal of, 214; Embargo of 1812, 
for ninety days, 263. 

" Endymion." British frigate. Her 
action with the " President," ii. 398- 

" Enterprise." American brig of war, 
ii. 186, 187, 231-233; capture of 
British brig "Boxer," 188. 

Entrepot. Significance of the term, 
and advantage to commerce, i. 12; 
conspicuous part in colonial regu- 
lation, 16, 24-26 ; underlying relation 
to Orders in Council of 1807, 27. 

" Enumerated " articles. Definition of, 
i. 24. 

" Epervier." British sloop of war. 
Captured by the "Peacock," ii. 

Erie, Town of. Selected by Chauncey 
for naval statiou on Lake Erie, i. 
375 ; advantages and drawbacks, 
375 ; British designs against, ii. 69. 

Erskine, David M. British Minister 
to Washington, Exceeds his in- 
structions in negotiating, i. 216-218 ; 
disavowed and recalled, 219; suc- 
ceeded by Francis J. Jackson, 221. 

" Essex." American frigate. Cap- 
tain Porter's dissatisfaction with, ii. 
1, 2; sails, but fails to join Bain- 
bridge's squadron, 3 ; goes to the 
Pacific, 244 ; cruise in the Pacific, 
246 ; action with, and capture by, | 
British ships "Phoebe" and 
" Ciierub," 249-252. 

Europe. Conditions in, as affecting 

war in America, i. 378-385, 389- 
390, 401, 410; ii. 9-11, 126, 210- 
212, 266 (and note), 330, 340, 
355-356, 362-363, 385-387 ; effect 
upon the peace negotiations, ii. 411, 
414, 415, 420, 423-424, 427-431, 

Fox, Charles James. British Secre- 
tary for Foreign Affairs. Takes 
office, i. 104 ; negotiations with Mon- 
roe concerning "direct" trade, 105; 
connection with blockade of May 16, 
1806, 108 ; illness and death, 128- 

" Frolic." British brig of war. Cap- 
tured by " Wasp," 412-415; recap- 
tured, 415. 

"Frolic." American sloop of war, 
named after above. Captured by 
" Orpheus," ii. 269 (note), 244 

GaLLATTX, A'hert. American Secre- 
tary of the Treasury. Concerning the 
Embargo of 1808, i. 194, 196. 202, 
208 ; concerning Non-Intercourse 
Act, 217 ; conversation with Tur- 
reau, concerning Erskiue's propo- 
sition, 230 ; report on the finances, 
immediately before the war, 281 ; 
opinion as to privateering, 396; 
observations as to feeling in Eng- 
land, 1814, ii. 332, 415; appointed 
peace commissioner, 412 ; opinion 
as to the effect of the war upon 
the nation, 435-436. 

Gambier, Lord. British admiral. 
Peace commissioner at Ghent, 413. 

Gaston, William. Representative from 
North Carolina. Speech on alle- 
giance and impressment, i. 6-8, 123, 

Ghent. Negotiations at, find Treaty 
of, ii. 413-435 ; names of com- 
missioners, 412, 413 ; terms of, 431- 
433 ; signature and ratification of, 

Goulburn, Henry. British peace com- 
missioner at Ghent, ii. 413. 

Grenville, Lord. British Secretary 
for Foreign Affairs. Correspon- 
dence with Rufus King concerning 
impressment, i. 117-118, 120-121. 

" Guerriere." British frigate. Cap- 
tured by the " Constitution," i. 

" Guerriere." American, named after 



above. Command declined bv De- 
catur for reasons, i. 422 ; ii. 398. 
Gunboats. Jefferson's sole naval de- 
pendence on, i. 187 ; ii. 213-214 ; nau- 
tical disqualifications of, 196, 291, 
296 ; extravagant expense of, 260, 
262; ii. 1 54 ; proclaim a merely defen- 
sive policy, 296 ; demoralizing effect 
upon oflScers and crews, ii. 154, 155 ; 
committed in war to officers not of 
regular navy, 154, 336-337 ; general 
uselessness in war, 154,159, 160,161, 
163, 164, 179, 195, 198; gallant de- 
fence of the " Asp," 168, and of the 
Lake Borgne flotilla, 389-^90. 

Halifax. Benefited by American 
embargo and War of 1812, i. 198 ; ii. 
21, 23 ; importance relative to trade 
routes, and cruising, i. 392, 394. 

Hampton. Town in Virginia. Local 
military importance of, ii. 160, 162 ; 
attack on, 167. 

Hampton, Wade. American general. 
Commands Lake Champlain dis- 
trict, 1813, ii. Ill; to co-operate 
with Wilkinson, 111; fails to join, 
and retires on Plattsburg, 115, 116. 

Harrison, William H. American gen- 
eral. Succeeds to Hull's command, 
i. 367 ; plans of campaign, 368, 369, 
overthrown by Winchester's disas- 
ter at Frenchtown, 370 ; remains on 
defensive awaiting naval control 
of lakes, 371 ; resumes operations 
after Perry's victory, ii. 102 ; wins 
battle of the Thames, 1 03 ; trans- 
ferred to Niagara, 104, and thence 
to Sackett's Harbor, 1 1 7. 

Harvey, J. Lieutenant-colonel, British 
army. Suggests and conducts deci- 
sive attack at Stony Creek, ii. 46- 
48. Quoted, 102, 308. 

H ill yar, James. Captain, R. N. Com- 
mands frigate " Phoebe," ii. 246 ; in 
company with " Cherub " captures 
U. S. S. " Essex," 247-252. 

" Hornet." American sloop of war. 
Captures the " Peacock," ii. 8 ; sails 
with Decatur's squadron, 1813, and 
driven into New London, 148, 149; 
escapes thence to New York, sails 
again, 397, and captures " Penguin," 

Hull, Isaac. Captain, U. S. N. Com- 
mands "Constitution," i. 328; chased 
by British squadron, 329 ; .sails from 
Boston on a cruise, 329 ; captures 
" Guerriere," 330-335 ; command- 

ing Portsmouth yard, reports on 
coastwise conditions, ii. 186, 187, 
192, 198. 
Hull, William. American general. 
Appointed brigadier general, i. 337; 
his letter setting forth military con- 
ditions prior to war, 339 ; his cam- 
paign, 340-346, and surrender, 347. 

Impressment. A principal cause 
of War of 1812, i. 2; statement of 
the British claim, 3; counter-claim 
of American Government, 4, 120; 
American people not unanimous in 
support, 5, 116 ; opinions of Morris, 
Gaston, and Strong, 6-8 ; not men- 
tioned in Jay's instructions, 1 794, 88; 
made pre-eminent in those to Monroe 
and Pinkney, 1806, 114; historical 
summary oft he controversy, to 1806, 
114-133"; treaty of December 31, 
1806, does not provide for, satisfac- 
torily, 133 ; rejected therefore by 
Jeflerson, 133 ; a real cause of the 
war, though so denied by some, 136- 
138; American demand revived in 
connection with the " Chesapeake " 
affair, 161 ; Great Britain refuses to 
mingle the two questions, 165 ; num- 
bers of American seamen alleged 
to have been impressed, 128, 300 
(and note) ; demand renewed, coin- 
cident with a proposal looking to 
peace after the declaration of war, 
ii. 409 ; Great Britain again refuses, 
410; stated as a sine qua non in re- 
ply to British propositions made 
through Admiral Warren, i. 391 ; 
embodied in instructions to peace 
commissioners, ii. 413-414 ; again 
refused by Great Britain, 416 ; aban- 
doned by the American Govern- 
ment, in consequence of the pressure 
of the war, ii. 266 (and note), 414, 

Indians, American. Estimated impor- 
tance of, in consideration of war, i. 
305-307, 338, 339 ; ii. 67, 293, 421 ; 
effect upon Hull, in surrendering, 
349 ; instabilitv of, 345, 346 ; ii. 73, 
75, 99, 103, 280, 421 ; desire of Brit- 
ish officials to secure them in their 
possessions at the peace, ii. 99, 100 
(note), 421 ; the consequent effect 
upon the peace negotiations, 416- 
423 ; not included, as parties to the 
treaty, 432. 

Izard, Georqe. American general. Re- 
lieves Wilkinson in command of 



Cham plain district, ii. 283 ; action 
first intended for, 292 ; his reports of 
conditions, 318-319, 364 ; his prepa- 
rations about Plattsburg, 319, 370 ; 
ordered to proceed to Brown's assist- 
ance on Niagara frontier, 319-320 ; 
his march thither, 320-321, 365 ; 
proceedings about Niagara, 321- 
323 ; blows up Fort Erie and re- 
treats to New York side, 323. 

Jackson, Andrew. American general. 
Takes Pensacola, ii. 388, goes to 
New (Orleans, 388 ; operations about 
New Orleans, 391-396. 

Jackson, Francis ,/. British Minister 
to the United States. Appointed, 
with special powers, i. 221 ; nego- 
tiations at Washington, 221-225; 
American Government declines 
further intercourse with, 225 ; dis- 
cussion of the correspondence, 226- 
228 ; British Government declines 
to censure, 228, 231. 

James, William. British naval his- 
torian. Quoted, i. 325, 327, 414, 415 ; 
ii. 6, 8, 54, 58, 80 (note), 132, 141 
(and note), 142, 143, 160 (note), 162, 
165 (note), 257, 258 (note), 260, 381, 
395 (note), 396 (note). 

"Java." British frigate. Captured by 
"Constitution," ii. 3-7. 

Jay, John. Chief Justice of the 
United States Supreme Court. 
Epochal significance of treaty with 
Great Britain negotiated by, i. 43 ; 
appointed special envoy, 88; 
occasion for the mission, 89, 90 ; 
character of the negotiation, 93-95 ; 
the treaty a temporary arrangement, 
95 ; ratified, with an omission, 96. 

Jefferson, Thomas. American Secre- 
tary of State. Opinion as to the im- 
portance of navigation to national 
defence, i. 52 ; unflattering opinion 
of British policy, 70 ; favors coercive 
retaliation in matters of commerce 
and navigation, 71 ; principle as to 
impressment enunciated by, 120. 

President of the United States. 
Broad principle as to impressment 
asserted by, i. 4 ; expectations of 
commercial concessions from Great 
Britain, 1804, 100; aversion to 
military and naval preparations, 
106, 138, 187, 280, 291, 297, 300, 336 ; 
ii. 213-214; reliance upon commer- 
cial coercion, 107 ; refuses approval 
of treaty of December 31, 1806, 

because without stipulation against 
impressment, 133; consistency of 
position in regard to impressment, 
136-138; action in the "Chesa- 
peake " affair, 160-162 ; endeavors 
to utilize it to obtain relinquishment 
of impressment, 1 64 ; recommends a 
general embargo, 181 ; expectations 
of, from the embargo, 183 (and 
note) ; dislilie to the carrying trade, 
187, and to Great Britain, 188-190; 
gunboat policy of, 187, 260, 262; ii. 
213-214; embarrassment in execut- 
ing embargo, i. 194; tenacious ad- 
herence to the embargo policy, 202 ; 
views as to American neutral waters, 

After leaving office. Opinion as 
to cause of Erskiue's arrangement, 
1809, i. 231 ; on Bonaparte's policy, 
239 ; favors keeping navy under 
cover during war, 280 ; expectations 
as to easy conquest of Canada, 291. 

Jones, Jacob. Commander, U. S. N., 
commanding " Wasp." Captures 
"Frolic," i. 411-415; taken by 
British seventy -four, 415; commands 
frigate " Macedonian " (as captain), 
ii. 25 ; expectations of escape, 
deceived, 25 ; sails with Decatur, 
148, and blockaded in New London, 

Jones, Thomas ap Cateshy. Lieutenant, 
U. S. N. Commands gunboat 
flotilla in Lake Borgne and 
Mississippi Sound, ii. 389 ; over- 
powered, wounded, and captured 
by superior enemy's force, 390. 

Jones, William. Secretary of the 
Navy. Commercial e.stimate of 
privateering by, i. 396 ; judicious 
reply to Perry's request for detach- 
ment, ii. 67 ; comments on the 
effects of gunboat service on naval 
officers, 154, 155 ; stigmatizes Ameri- 
can intercourse with enemy, and 
issues order to prevent, 174; recom- 
mends to Congress procurement of 
naval schooners for commerce de- 
stroying, 270 ; recommendation of 
Chauncey to Congress, 1813, 299; 
anxious correspondence with 
Chauncey, 1814, 300; naval force 
available for defence of Washing- 
ton, stated by, 343. 

KeaNE, John. British general. In 
temporary command of the expedi- 
tion against New Orleans, 391. 



King, Rufus. American Minister to 
Great Britain. Appointed, i. 120; 
negotiations concerning impress- 
ment, 120-122, 124-127. 

Kingston, Canada. Strategic impor- 
tance of, i. 305-308 ; ii. 30, 42, 59 ; 
operations contemplated against, iL 
30-33, 104-106, 278-280, 319. 

Lakes, the Great. Strategic impor- 
tance of, in War of 1812, i. 300-303, 
353, 356; ii. 29, 46-48,99-101, 102- 
104, 276-278, 28.5. 290-291, 298- 
300 ; decisive positions apou, i. 304- 
308 ; Hull's exposition of effect of 
naval predominance on, 339 ; Madi- 
son's admission concerning, 350; 
improved conditions on, through 
Channcey's energy, 361-366 ; con- 
trol of, dependent on naval force, 
371, 373; ii. 68-70, 73-75, 99-101, 
300-308, 314-315; minor naval 
events on, i. 354-356; ii. 324-328; 
British demands concerning, in the 
negotiations for peace, ii. 355-356, 
419, 421, 422. 

Lambert, Henry. Captain, R. N. Com- 
mands "Java" when taken by 
the " Constitution," ii. 3 ; mortally 
wounded in the action, 5. 

Lambert, Sir John. British generaL 
Joins New Orleans expedition two 
days before the assault, ii. 385 ; 
succeeds to command upon Paken- 
ham's death, 394-397 ; proceeds 
against and captures Fort Bowyer, 
in Mobile Bay, 397. 

Lawrence, .James. Captain, U. S. N. 
Commands " Hornet " in Bain- 
bridge's squadron, i. 407 ; sails in 
company with " Constitution," ii. 2 ; 
challenges " Bonne Citoyenne," 3 ; 
sinks the " Peacock," 8 ; returns to 
United States, 9 ; ordered to com- 
mand " Chesapeake," 131 ; nature 
of his orders, 131-132; action with, 
and captured by, " Shannon," 135- 
140; mortally wounded, 137; ex- 
amination of his conduct, 140-145. 

" Levant." British sloop of war. Cap- 
tured by" Constitution," ii. 404-406; 
recaptured by British squadron, 406 

Lewis, Morgan. American general, ii. 
47 ; temporarily succeeds Dearborn 
in command at Niagara, 50. 

Licenses. British to American mer- 
chant vessels, i. 203-206; for the 

snpplv of armies in Spanish Penin- 
sula, 'i. 265, 409-412; ii. 9, 15, 21, 
Liverpool, Earl of. Prime Minister of 
Great Britain. Quotations from 
correspondence of, relative to the 
peace negotiations, chap, xviii., ii. 

MACDOyOUGH, Thomas. Captain, 
U. S. N. Commands flotilla on Lake 
Champlain, ii. 356 ; operations prior 
to Prevost's invasion, 356-363 ; pre- 
parations for battle, 367-371, 376- 
377, 380 ; wins battle of Lake Cham- 
plain, 377-381 ; effects of the vic- 
tory, 381-382, 427, 430-431 ; news 
of the victorv received in London, 
" Macedonian." British frigate. Cap- 
tured by the United States, i. 416- 
"Macedonian." American frigate (cap- 
tured as above). Unable to get to 
sea, ii. 25, and blockaded in New 
London during the war, 148-150. 
Macomb, Alexander. American gen- 
eral. Left by Izard in command at 
Plattsburg, ii. 365; operations be- 
fore, and at, Plattsburg, 366-367; 
opinions of, as to di>tance of Mac- 
donough's squadron from the shore 
batteries. 369. 
M'Clure, George. American, general 
of N. Y. militia. Left in com- 
mand of Niagara frontier, ii. 118; 
diflicnlties of situation of, 119; 
retreats to American side of river, 
120; burns Canadian village of 
Newark, 120 ; this action of, dis- 
avowed by the Government, 120. 
Madison, James. Secretary of State, 
and President of the United States. 
Close association of. with events 
leading to War of 1812, and sum- 
mary of its cause, i. 41 ; char- 
acterization of, 106 ; discussion of 
questions of blockade, 1 10, 1 1 1 ; pro- 
nouncement on impressment, 114, 
131, 132; instructions to Monroe 
and Pinkney to reopen negotiations, 
1807, 133; "narrow outlook of, 139; 
opinion of the Berlin Decree, 142, 
182; upon the Rule of 1756, 152; 
instructions to Monroe by, in the 
" Chesapeake" affair, 161, 241 ; ob- 
ject of Jefferson's course in that 
affair, stated by, 164; use of the 
affair, made by. 1 70 : explanation 



of the motive of the Embargo of 
1808 by, 183; relatiou of, to Hou- 
Iiitercourse Act, 215; misled (as 
President) in negotiations with 
Erskiue, 216-218; proclamation, re- 
newing intercourse with Great 
Britain, 219; annulled, 219; nego- 
tiations with Jackson, Erskiue's 
successor, 221-225 ; declines further 
communication with Jackson, 225 ; 
special supervision of this corre- 
spondence by, 226 ; interpretation 
of British motive for Erskine's 
supposed concession, 230 ; accepts 
Champagny's letter as an actual re- 
vocation of Napoleon's Decrees, and 
so proclaims, 238, 254 ; afterwards 
recognizes delicacy of situation 
thus created, 266 ; non-intercourse 
with Great Britain revives, 248 ; 
message of, to Congress in special 
session, November 4, 1811, 259; 
recommends embargo, preparatory 
to war, 263 ; identified with policy 
of peaceful coercion, 278, 378 ; ii. 26, 
175-176 ; sends war message to Con- 
gress, and approves declaration of 
war, i. 279 ; assumes only his share 
of responsibility for the war, 393 ; 
indignation of, at British sectional 
blockade of coast, 296; ii. 173; 
selects Dearborn and Hull for gen- 
eral officers, i. 337 ; failure of ex- 
pectations as to Hull's expedition, 
admitted by, 339 ; ingenuous sur- 
prise at capitulation of Michili- 
mackinac, 341 ; admits mistake of 
not securing naval command of 
lakes, 350; military inefficiency 
of Government under, 360 ; ii. 26- 
27, 265 ; insists on relinquishment 
of impressment as a preliminary 
to treating for peace, i. 391, but 
obtains also from Congress law ex- 
cluding British-born seamen from 
American ships, 392 ; to prevent 
clandestine supply of enemy, recom- 
mends prohibition of all export, 
ii. 173 ; issues executive order to 
same end, 174 ; denials of effect- 
iveness of British blockade, 204 ; 
decides to abandon demand for ces- 
sation of impressment as a condition 
for peace, 266 (note) ; comment on 
Armstrong's management of mili- 
tary operations, 282. 
Manners, William. Commander, H. N., 
commanding " Reindeer," ii. 254 ; 
skill and gallantry of, in action 

with "Wasp," 254-255; killed in 
the action, 255. 

Maples, J. F. Commander, R. N., 
commanding "Pelican." Captures 
" Argus," ii. 217-219. 

Marshall, John. American Secretary 
of State under President John 
Adams. Summary of commercial 
injuries received from Great Britain, 
i. 97 ; propositions to Great Britain 
concerning impressment, 121 ; opin- 
ion concerning blockades, 146 ; ten- 
dency of this opinion, if accepted, 
148. (Afterwards Chief Justice of 
Supreme Court.) 

Militia. Jefferson's dependence upon, 
i. 52 ; ii. 213 ; conduct of, American 
and Canadian, i. 344, 345, 346, 351, 
357, 360; ii. 26, 27, 42, 44, 70, 119- 
121, 157-158, 295, 312, 316, 337, 
339, 343, 347-351, 3.54, 365, 366, 
(and note), 367, 391-396. 

Monroe, James. American Minister 
to Great Britain, i. 104, 126; re- 
ports conditions of American com- 
merce in 1804 prosperous, 99, 100, 
104, but changed in 1805, 104 ; con- 
sequent negotiations with Fox, 104- 
1 13 ; Pinkney appointed as col- 
league to, for special negotiation, 
113; negotiations with British min- 
istry on impressment, 128-132 ; with 
Pinkney signs treaty of December 
31, 1806, 133; treaty rejected by 
Jefferson, and new negotiations or- 
dered, 133 ; " Chesapeake " affair in- 
tervenes, but British Government 
eventually refuses to reopen, 135 ; 
unlucky comment of, upon Rule of 
1756, 151 ; negotiations of, with 
Canning, concerning " Chesapeake " 
affair, 156-165; returns to the 
United States, leaving Pinkney as 
minister, 135 ; after return vindi- 
cates the rejected treaty, 169, 213; 
proposes to Jefferson, in 1809, a 
special mission to France and Great 
Britain, for Avhich he offers him- 
self, 212; becomes Secretary of 
State, under President Madison, 
254; correspondence, while Secre- 
tary, quoted, 255, 293, 391 ; ii. 265, 
266, 411, 413, 414; advanced views, 
for one of his party, concerning 
utility of a navy, i. 280 ; on project 
of keeping navy in port, in war, 
106, 281 ; statement regarding 
readiness for war, 393. Secretary 
of War, ii. 323. 



Montreal. Strategic importance of, 
i. 303-309. 

Mooers, Benjamin. General, New 
York militia. Vindicates the con- 
duct of most part of the militia 
under his command, ii. 366 (note). 

Morris, Charles. Captain, U. S. N. (first 
lieatenant of the " Constitution " in 
action with "Guerriere"). Com- 
mands frigate " Adams," in Poto- 
mac, ii. 162, 167; services in Po- 
tomac, and at Annapolis, 169, 174- 
177 ; difficulty in escaping British 
blockade, 170', 178; first cruise of 
"Adams," 226, 261 ; second cruise, 
strikes on Isle an Haut, takes ref- 
uge in Penobscot, and burned to 
escape capture, 353-354. 

Morris, Gouvemeur. American states- 
man. Opinion favorable to 
right of impressment of Britisli- 
born seamen on high seas, i. 5-7 ; 
opinion of the United States' ability 
to maintain a strong navy, 71 ; in 
London, contends against impress- 
ment of Americans, 119. 

NapolEOX, The Emperor. Issues 
Berlin Decree, i. 112; purpose, as 
defined by himself, 144; objects of, 
as towards the United States, 149, 
169, 173, 182, 235, 249, 268, 278; 
scope of Berlin Decree, 152, 173, 
176, 182, 253-254; sole control of 
Continent by, 153, 174, 220, 221, 
269 ; vigorous application of De- 
cree to American shipping, 1 72 ; 
effects of his reverses in Spain, 
191, 209; Bayonne Decree of, 203; 
tenor of Milan Decree of, 205 ; 
Decree of Rambouillet, 235-236; 
alleged revocation of decrees by, 
237, 271, 272; instances of argu- 
ments of, 240, 267; effect of re- 
verses in Russia upon the War of 
1812, 389; of downfall of, ii. 10, 
123, 330. 

Navigation. Connection between naval 
power and, 11, 49-52, 81 ; distinc- 
tion between commerce and, 11, 81. 

Navigation, Acts of. The formulated 
expression of a national need, i. 9 ; 
opinion of Adam Smith concern- 
ing, 9-10; historical summary of, 
13-19; apparent effects of, 19; 
British national conviction concern- 
ing, 21-24, 60-61 ; relation of colo- 
nies to system of, 24-27 ; endeavor 
to maintain system of, towards 
VOL. II. — 29 

United States after independence, 
27, 29, 40, 41, 45-48, 103; copied 
by French Convention, 28 ; attitude 
of foreigners towards, 30 ; progress 
of British colonies under, 31-39; 
attitude of American colonists to- 
wards, 39; Lord Sheffield's pam- 
phlet upon, 46, 47, 49, 50, 57, 64, 65, 
73 (and note), 75 ; inter-relations of 
British Empire protected by, 53-55, 
63-64, 67 ; working of, threatened by 
American independence, 56-58, C5 ; 
modifications- of, proposed by Pitt, 
but rejected by country, 58; de- 
pendence of, upon West Indies, 65 ; 
system of, continued by proclama- 
tion towards United States, 1783- 
1 794, 67-70 ; British commerce and 
shipping grow under this enforce- 
ment of, 76—84 ; purpose of, offen- 
sive, in military sense, 79 ; effect of 
French Revolution on, 87-88; de- 
pendence of Rule of 1756 npon the 
system of, 90 ; principle of Rule of 
1756 leads up to molestation of 
American navigation, and Orders 
in Council of 1807, 93, 98-104, and 
so to war with United States, 136. 

Navy, American. Gouvemeur Mor- 
ris' opinion of power of United 
States to maintain, i. 71 ; opinion 
of John Quincy Adams, 186; recom- 
mendation of Presidents Washing- 
ton and John Adams, ii. 212,213; 
policy of President Jefferson, 213; 
i. 1 87, 280 ; neglect of, during ad- 
ministrations of Jefferson and Mad- 
ison, shown by condition of, at 
outbreak of wai, 257, 297, 300, and 
stated by a committee of Congress, 
1812, 260-262 ; Madison's lukewarm 
mention, 259, 260 ; Congress on ap- 
proach of war refuses to increase, 
263; high professional merit of 
officers of, 279-280 ; numbers of, 
as estimated by British admiralty, 
ii. 211; total numbers of vessels in 
active employment, all told, from 
beginning of war to its conclusion, 
twenty-two, 242. 

New Orleans. For battle of, see Ac- 
tions, Land. 

" New Orleans." Ship of the line, on 
the lakes, ii. 318 (note). 

Niagara, Peninsula of. Strategic im- 
portance of, i. 338, 345-346, 352, 
353; ii. 39-40, 51. 291, 293; effect 
of climatic conditions of, i. 359. 



Orders in Council. General defini- 
tion of, i. 2 (note) ; of 1807, cause of 
war with United States, 2 ; entrepot 
motive for, 16, 27 ; of June and 
November, 1793, 89, 92 ; of January, 
1794, 93; relations of, to Rule of 
1756, 93; of January, 1798, motive 
of, 98, and renewal in 1803, 99; 
effect of these last upon "direct 
trade," 101 ; of May, 1806, 108, 
effect and purpose of, 109 ; legi- 
timacy of, denied by the United 
States, 110-112, and by Napoleon, 
who upou it bases Berlin Decree, 
1 1 2 ; of January, 1 807, aud its effects, 

Of November, 1807, purport of, 1 77, 
187 ; resented by United States, 178 ; 
delay in communicating to Ameri- 
can Government, 179 ; general plan 
of, that of blockades, 180; illustra- 
tive instances of execution of, 180 
(note), 204, 205 (notes) ; known in 
United States before the passage 
of Embargo Act, 181 ; conditional 
offer of British Government to 
withdraw, 215-218; revocation of, 
by substitution of Order of April, 
1809, 220 ; American expectation 
of revocation, in consequence of 
Champagny's letter, 238; British 
Government declines to revoke, 243- 
245 ; Pinkney's analysis, and con- 
demnation, of, to Wellesley, 245-246 ; 
Wellesley's reply, 246 ; Wellesley's 
exposition of policy of, 253-254 ; 
discontent in Great Britain with, 
269; order of April 12, 1812, prom- 
ises revocation, conditional, 270 ; 
British determination to maintain, 
otherwise, 273-276 ; revocation of, 
June, 1812, 276, to date from 
August 1, 1812, 277 ; too late to se- 
cure peace with America, 278, or to 
restore it, 391-392; ii. 9; compen- 
sation for seizures under, refused in 
peace negotiations, ii. 416, 432. 

PaKENHAM, Sir Edward. British 
general. Named to command New 
Orleans expedition after death of 
Ross, ii. 385 ; instructions to, con- 
cerning conduct in Louisiana, 427 ; 
arrival and operations, 392-396. 

Patterson, Daniel T, Captain, U. S. N. 
Commands in chief in waters of New 
Orleans, ii. 392-395. 

" Peacock." British sloop of war. 
Captured by " Hornet," ii. 7-9. 

" Peacock." American sloop of war. 
Captures " Epervier," ii. 258-261 ; 
subsequent cruise of, 261-262 ; sails 
again, January 20, 1815, 406. 

Pearson, Joseph. Representative in 
Congress from North Carolina. 
Speech on conditions of country, 
owing to the war, ii. 199. 

" Pelican." British brig of war. 
Captures American brig " Argus," 
ii. 217. 

" Penguin." British sloop of war. 
Captured by " Hornet," ii. 407. 

Perceval, Spencer. Prime Minister of 
Great Britain. Murder of, and con- 
sequent confusion in the Govern- 
ment, i. 273 ; firm determination of, 
to maintain Orders in Council, and 
opinion of American resistance, 274. 

Perry, Oliver H. Captain, U. S. N. 
Applies for, and ordered to, the 
lakes service, i. 376 ; assigned by 
Chauncey to Lake Erie, and practi- 
cal independence of action there, 
377 ; conditions of force found, 377, 
and merits of general action of, 378 ; 
engaged at capture of Fort George, 
and transfers Black Rock flotilla to 
Erie, ii. 41 ; thenceforth remains 
on Lake Erie, 62, but always under 
Chauncey, 63 ; collision of interests 
between the two oflScers, 64 ; alter- 
cation with Chauncey, 65 ; applies to 
be detached, 66 ; Navy Department 
refuses, 67 ; exposed situation of 
Erie, and preparations for defence, 
during equipment of squadron, 68- 
70 ; blockaded by British squadron, 
70 ; seizes opportunity of its ab- 
sence, to cross bar, 71 ; proceedings 
prior to battle of Lake p]rie, 74-75; 
battle of Lake Erie, 76-94 ; discus- 
sion of claim to credit of, 95-99 ; 
consequences of success of, 99-101 ; 
prompt subsequent action of, 102 ; 
detached from lakes service, 104 ; 
engaged in harassing retreat of 
British squadron down the Potomac, 
350 ; opinion as to qualities of 
smaller and larger vessels, 271 ; 
detailed to command a squadron of 
schooners, against enemy's com- 
merce, 270-273. 

" Phoebe." British frigate. Sent to 
Pacific with two sloops of war to cap- 
ture " Essex," 246 ; with " Cherub " 
captures " Essex," 248-252. 

Pinkney, William. Appointed col- 
league to Monroe, in London, for 



special negotiations, i. 1 13 ; course of 
negotiations, 127-133; signs treaty 
of December 31, 1806, 133 ; remains 
as minister, after Monroe's return, 
135 ; quoted in connection with 
mission, 146, 177, 215, 216, 218, 219, 
230, 238, 241, 251; party relations, 
1 69 ; early forwards a copy of 
Orders in Council of November 11, 
1807, 179 (note) ; letter of Secre- 
tary of State to, communicating dis- 
missal of Jackson by U. S. Govern- 
ment, 226-228; communicates the 
same to the British Government, 
230; construes Champagny's letter 
to revoke French Decrees, and de- 
mands recall of British Orders in 
Council, 238 ; letter to British Sec- 
retary for Foreign Affairs, analyz- 
ing and condemning system of 
Orders in Conncil, 245 ; conditional 
instructions to, to present recall, 
250; dilatory course of Wellesley 
towards, 251; presents recall, 252; 
returns to the United States, 252 ; 
no successor to, till after the war, 

Piit, William. Prime Minister of Great 
Britain. Popularity of, i. 1 ; as Chan- 
cellor of Exchequer, 1783, intro- 
duces bill favorable to United 
States, for regulating commerce, 58 ; 
controversy over bill, 60; measure 
then dropped, 67, 68 ; concession 
becomes possible to, 87, 97 ; return 
to power, in 1804, 100; new meas- 
ures of, due to popular discontents, 
101-104; remark to Gouverneur 
Morris, concerning impressment 
difficulties, 120; death of, 104. 

Porter, David. Captain, U. S. N. 
Commands frigate " Essex," i. 407; 
ii. 1-3, 13 ; cruise of " Essex," in 
Pacific, ii. 244-247 ; action with, 
and capture by, " Phoebe " and 
" Cherub," 249-252 ; approves of 
commerce destroying by naval armed 
schooners, appointed to command a 
squadron of them, and draws up 
plan of operations, 270 ; engaged in 
harassing retreat of British frigates 
in Potomac, 350. 

Porter, Peter B. Representative in 
Congress from New York, and 
general of New York militia. Testi- 
mony at trial of General Hull, i. 
340 ;' duel with General Smj-th, 358 ; 
tribute to gallantry of naval detach- 
ment at Niagara, 315 ; engaged at 

Chippewa, ii. 295, on Niagara pen- 
insula, 306, and Lundy's Lane, 310. 

" President." American frigate. Ken- 
counter with British sloop of war 
'• Little Belt," i. 256-259 ; cruises 
under command of Commodore 
Kodgers, i. 322-324, 407-^09; ii. 
128-129 ; sails under Decatur, 397 ; 
capture of, by British squadron, 

Prevost, Sir George. British general. 
Governor of Nova Scotia, reports 
failure of American embargo, i. 199. 
Governor-General of Canada, 
and commander-in-chief, reports 
British naval superiority on lakes, 
1812, i. 295 ; statements of effect of 
naval control on operations, 302 ; ii. 
40, 306, 316, 362-363, 374-375; ne- 
gotiates suspension of hostilities 
with Dearborn, i. 351-352 ; instructs 
Brock to forbear offensive, 356, 367; 
visit of, to Kingston, February, 1813, 
effect of, on American plans, ii. 32 ; 
attack on Sacketts Harbor by, in 
conjunction with Yeo, 42-45 ; in- 
structions to Procter, at Maiden, 67, 
and to De Rottenburg, at Niagara, 
69 ; submits plan for securing terri- 
tories in United States to Indian 
allies of Great Britain, 99 (note) ; 
calls upon Admiral Cochi-ane to in- 
flict retaliation for unauthorized 
burning by Americans in Canada, 
329, 334 ; receives large re-enforce- 
ments from Wellington's Peninsular 
army, 362-S63, with instructions for 
operations, 362 ; reasons for advanc- 
ing by New York side of Lnke 
Champlain, instead of through Ver- 
mont, 363; advance upon Plattsburg, 
365-367 ; awaits the arrival of Brit- 
ish squadron before attacking, 372- 
375 ; reason for desiring a joint 
attack by army and navy, 372 
(note) ; correspondence with Captain 
Downie, commanding the squadron, 
373-375 ; charges against, by naval 
officers of the squadron, 375, 381 ; 
retreats after squadron's defeat, 381 ; 
summoned home under charges, but 
dies before trial, 381. Retreat of, 
after the naval defeat, endorsed by 
Wellington, 430. 

Pring, Daniel. Commander. R. N. At- 
tached to lake service, Lake (^ham- 
plain, 360; operations on, 360-361, 
366 ; second in command at battle 
of Lake Champlain, 372-381. 



Privateering. Employment of a sea- 
militia force, requiring little ante- 
cedent training, i. 286 ; recourse of 
the weaker belligerent, 288 ; apti- 
tude of Americans for, 384 ; extem- 
porized character of early, in War 
of 1812, 394; opinions concerning 
nature of, of Secretaries Gallatin and 
Jones, 396 ; susceptible of business 
regulation and direction, 397, 399 ; 
ii. 220, 225, 229 ; energy of Ameri- 
can, noted by Warren, i. 401 -402 ; 
effect of, upon regular navy, ii. 12 ; 
a secondary operation of war, not 
in itself decisive, 126; primary ob- 
ject of, 215-216, 241 ; details of 
methods pursued, in 1812, 222, 225, 
226, 240; comparison of, with a 
regular naval service, in motive, 
and in efficiency for the particular 
object of commerce destroying, 241- 
244 ; a popular effort in War of 
1812, independent of Government 
initiative, 265 ; development and 
systematization of, towards end of 
war, 267-268, 269. 

Privateers mentioned by name : 
" America," i. 398 ; ii. 229 ; " Chas- 
seur," ii. 237-240 ; " Comet," ii. 
234 ; " Decatur," ii. 233 ; " Globe," 
ii. 226-228 ; " Governor Tompkins," 
ii. 228 ; " Kemp," ii. 236 ; " Leo," ii 
224 ; " Lion," ii. 224 ; " Mammoth," 
ii. 269 ; " Hapid," i. 398 ; " Rattle- 
snake," ii. 223 ; " Rossie," i. 295- 
297 ; " Saucy Jack," ii. 235-236 ; 
" Scourge," ii. 223 ; " True-blooded 
Yankee," ii. 225 ; " Yankee," ii. 

Number and classes of, ii. 243- 

Combats, of. See Actions, Priva- 

Prizes taken by Americans in first 
three months of war, and in what 
localities taken, i. 394-395 ; taken 
by British in same period, 399-400; 
at later period of war, 406; transi- 
tion period of prize-taking, Janu- 
ary-June, 1813, ii. 20; estimate of 
relative losses by the two belliger- 
ents, 21-22 ; compilation of lists, 
by Niles' Register, 22 ; overlooked 
significance of the greater British 
losses, 23, 221 ; limited success of 
American frigates in taking, to what 
attributable, 216 ; taken by Ameri- 
can cruisers, in latter part of war, 
220-221 ; in West Indies, 230 ; total 

number taken throughout the war, 
by American naval vessels, and by 
privateers, 241-243. 

Proclamation. Commerce between 
Great Britain and America, regu- 
lated by, 1783-1794,1. 67-70; is- 
sued by Jefferson excluding British 
armed vessels from A merican waters, 
after "Chesapeake" affair, 160-161 ; 
Royal, directing commanders of 
British naval vessels to impress 
British-born seamen found in foreign 
mercliant ships, and denying efficacy 
of naturalization papers to discharge 
from allegiance, 166; by Jefferson, 
against combinations to defy Em- 
bargo laws, 207 ; by Madison, per- 
mitting renewal of trade with Great 
Britain, 219, and withdrawn, 219; 
by Madison, announcing revocation 
of Napoleon's Decrees, 238. 

Procter, Henry. British general. As 
colonel, in command of Fort Maiden, 
i. 345 ; acts against Hull's commu- 
nications, 345 ; instructions from 
Brock, after fall of Dfttroit, 367; 
compels surrender of Winchester's 
detachment at Frenchtown, 370 ; 
subsequent' action, 373; ii. 67, 68; 
attack on Fort Meigs, 68; project 
against Erie, 69 ; baffled at Fort 
Stephenson, 73 ; upon Harrison's 
approach, after battle of Lake P'rie, 
evacuates Detroit and Maiden, re- 
treating up valley of the Thames, 
and defeated at Moravian Town, 
103 ; reaches British lines at Bur- 
lington, with remnant of his force, 

QUINCY, Josiah. Representative in 
Congress from Massachusetts. De- 
fines position of New P^ngland con- 
cerning Orders in Council and 
impressment questions, i. 211-212; 
disproves the accuracy of the charge 
brought by the Administration 
against the British minister, Jack- 
son, 232 ; supports the report for 
increase of navy, 260; predicts 
that a suitable naval establishment 
would be a unifying force in national 
politics, 261 ; sends word to seaports 
of intended embargo of April, 1812, 

" RATT1.ESNAKE." American brig of 
war. Particulars of cruise of, ii. 



Reeves. British writer on the Navi- 
{ration Laws, quoted, i. 14, 15, 17, 
19, 23, 25, 39 (note). 

"Reindeer." British sloop of war. 
Captured by " Wasp," ii. 254. 

Riall, Phineas. British general, com- 
manding on Niagara frontier, 
December, 1813. Captures Fort 
Niagara, and raids successfully 
western New York, burning towns 
in retaliation for the burning of 
Newark, ii. 120-122; in 1814, sug- 
gests destruction of Fort Niagara, 
275 ; at Chippewa and Lnndy's 
Lane, with intervening operations, 
295-298, 306-310; wounded and 
captured at Lundy's Lane, 310. 

Rodgers, John. Captain, U. S. N. 
Encounter with British sloop "Little 
Belt," i. 256-259 ; commands a 
squadron at declaration of war, 
314; opinion as to proper mode of 
using navv against enemv's com- 
merce, 317"-320; ii. 130-131, 216; 
orders of Navy Department to, 
320; sails with squadron on the 
first cruise of the war, 322 ; inci- 
dents, 323-324, and effects, direct 
and indirect, of first cruise of, 324- 
327 ; effects of second cruise, 402- 
404 ; incidents of second cruise, with 
" President " and *' Congress," 407- 
409 ; incidents of third cruise, in 
"President" alone, ii. 128-129; 
after fourth cruise, enters New 
York, and turns over command of 
" President " to Decatur, i. 405. 
Employed in Potomac River, harass- 
ing retreat of British squadron from 
Alexandria, 350. 

Rose, George H. British special en- 
voy to Washington for settlement 
of " Chesapeake " affair, i. 165-167 ; 
failure of mission, 167. 

Ross, Robert. British general em- 
ployed in Chesapeake expedition. 
Instructions issued to, ii. 331 ; cap- 
ture of Washington, 340-351 ; killed 
in advance against Baltimore, 357 ; 
instructions to, for New Orleans 
expedition, 385-386 ; sanguine ex- 
pectations of, after capture of Wash- 
ington, 424-425 ; succeeded by Sir 
Edward Pakenham for New Orleans 
expedition, 392, 427. 

Rottenburg, De. British general in 
command on Niagara frontier June, 
1813, ii. 69 ; declines to detach to 
aid of Procter and Barclay on Lake 

Erie, 69; proceeds to Kingston, 
with re-enforcements, in anticipa- 
tion of American attack, 110-111; 
despatches detachment in pursuit 
of Wilkinson's movement down the 
St. Lawrence, 114. 

Russell, Jonathan. American chargi 
<r affaires in France, after Arm- 
strong's departure, i. 247 ; corre- 
spondence with American • and 
French Governments relative to 
the alleged repeal of the French 
Decrees, quoted, 247, 267, 268 ; trans- 
ferred as charge to London, 264; 
correspondence as such with Amer- 
ican and British Governments, 
quoted, 264, 266, 272-278 ; opinion 
of the alleged French Decree of 
April 28, 1811, 272, 276; negotia- 
tion with Castlereagh, after decla- 
ration of war, looking to suspension 
of hostilities, ii. 409-411 ; appointed 
additional peace commissioner at 
Ghent, 413. 

Russia. Offers in 1812 mediation be- 
tween Great Britain and United 
States, ii. 411 ; accepted by United 
States, but rejected by Great Britain, 
412 ; attitude of Czar towards Amer- 
ica, 423-424, 428. 

SaCKETTS Harbor. American 
naval station on Lake Ontario. Con- 
ditions at, i. 302, 309, 363, 374, 376 ; 
ii. 37, 38, 50, 104-106, 110-113, 119, 
276, 278, 280, 281, 291, 304; ships 
constructed at, 364, 366, 377 ; ii. 49, 
276, 283, 291, 318 (note); attack 
upon, by Prevost and Yeo, ii. 42-45 ; 
Brown's march from, to Niagara 
frontier, 281 ; Yeo's blockade of, 
285, abandoned, 290 ; Izard's march 
to, on way to support Brown at 
Niagara, 319-320 ; Charmcey retires 
finally to, after launch of the Brit- 
ish " St. Lawrence," 323 ; destruc- 
tion of, prescribed to Prevost by 
instructions, in 1814, 329, 362*; 
Yeo's observations at, 318 (note). 

Seaboard, United States. Conditions 
on, i. 296-298, 300, 310-313, 360, 
393,404-406; ii. 15-19, 24-27, 127- 
128, 148-150, 152-1.55,202; Chesa- 
peake and Delaware Bays, 1813, ii. 
155-178; three divisions of the sea- 
board. Northern, Middle, and South- 
ern, 178; distinctive topographical 
features of each, 178, 179, 183, 184, 
193, 195 ; proportionate effect of 



the war npon each, with reasons 
therefor, 179-183; commercial aud 
military characteristics of Middle 
section, 183-184 ; necessity of coast- 
ing trade to Middle, 184, less than 
to Northern aud Southern, 185-187 ; 
effect of hostile pressure upon 
coasting in Northern section, 192- 
194; in Southern section, 195-198, 
203 ; effectual separation between 
the sections by the British block- 
ades, 198-201 ; statistics of export, 
201 ; momentary importance of 
North Carolina coast, 203; effects 
of pressure upon seaboard shown by 
rebound upon peace, in prices, and 
in shipping statistics, 204-207 ; state- 
ment by a naval officer of the time, 
207-208 ; operations in Chesapeake 
Bay, 1814, 336-341, 350-351; cap- 
ture of Washington, 341-350 ; oc- 
currences on New England coast, 
352 ; invasion of Maine, and occu- 
pation of Castine, 353-354; Gulf 
coast and New Orleans, 382-397. 

Scott, Winfield. American general. 
Quoted, i. 336 ; ii. 48, 104 (note), 118, 
240 (note), 297; joins Wilkinson's 
expedition down the St. Lawrence, 
ii. 113 ; on Niagara frontier, in 1814, 
279, 281, 282; battle of Chippewa, 
294-298; Lundy's Lane, 306-311; 
severely wounded, 311, and unable 
to serve again during the campaign, 
314; president of the Court of In- 
quiry concerning the capture of 
Washington, 341-342. 

" Shannon." British frigate, block- 
ading off New York. Pursuit of 
" Constitution," and protection of 
convoy, i. 325-329 ; admirable ef- 
ficiency of, under Captain Broke, 
133-134; capture of "Chesapeake" 
by, 135-145; reported injuries to, 

Sheffield, Lord. British writer on 
economical questions. Conspicuous 
opponent of Pitt's policy iu opening 
West India trade to American navi- 
gation, i. 50; leading constructive 
ideas of, in scheme of policy to- 
wards the United States, 63-64, 65- 
66 ; success of, in preventing Pitt's 
measure, 67, 68 ; Gibbon's estimate 
of, 73 (note) ; apparent temporary 
success of policy of, 75-79 ; Canada 
and the other North- American col- 
onies fail to fulfil the part expected 
from them, 86 ; pamphlet of, " Ob- 

servations on the Commerce of the 
American States," 65 ; quotations 
from, i. 28 (note), 31 (note), 37 (and 
note), 46, 47, 49, 50, 57, 65, 72. 

Sherbrooke, Sir John. British general, 
Governor of Nova Scotia. Ordered 
to occupy so much of Maine as 
shall insure direct communication 
between Halifax and Quebec, ii. 
353 ; expedition to the Penobscot, 
aud seizure of Castine and Machias, 
354; Wellington's opinion of the 
result, 354, 431. 

Sinclair, Arthur. Commander, U. S. 
N., commanding on Upper Lakes, 
in 1814, ii. 324; operations of, 324- 
328 ; mentioned, 333. 

Smith, Adam. Quoted in connection 
with the Navigation Act, i. 9-10, 

Smith, Robert. American Secretary 
of State during early part of Madi- 
son's first term, i. 222 ; correspond- 
ence with, and in the case of, 
Jackson, the British minister to 
Washington, 222-228 ; attributes to 
Madison's intervention an offen- 
sive expression in letter to Erskine, 
228-229. ■ 

Smith, Samuel. Senator from Mary- 
land. Quoted in connection with 
Embargo legislation, i. 184. 

Stewart, Charles. Captain, U. S. N. 
Commands " Constellation," ii. 11, 
when driven into Norfolk, and there 
blockaded for the rest of the war, 
12 ; his reports while in Norfolk 
waters, 10, 17, 160-162; trans- 
ferred to the "Constitution," at 
Boston, 161, 162; difficulty in es- 
caping from Bo.ston, 147 (see also 
i. 405 and ii. 12); first cruise in 
" Constitution," 230-231 ; second 
escape, 404 ; captures " Cyane " 
and " Levant," 405-406 ; quoted, ii. 
12, 20. 

Strong, Caleb. Governor of Massachu- 
setts. Quoted, in support of British 
claim to impress, i. 7 ; in condem- 
nation of the war, and of the inva- 
sion of Canada, ii. 352. 

St, Vincent, Earl of. British admiral 
and First Lord of the Admiralty. 
Statements and opinions concerning 
impressment, during Rufus King's 
negotiations, i. 124-126. 

TuRREA U, General. French Minister 
to the United States. Opinion that 



Erskine's concessions showed the 
break-down of Great Britain, i. 230. 

ViyCESTyJohn. British general, com- 
manding on Niagara line, at the 
time of Dearborn's attack, ii. 38 ; 
retreat to Burlington, 39 ; attack 
by, at Stony Creek, 46 ; on Ameri- 
can retreat reoccupies peninsula, 
except Fort George, 47-48; super- 
seded by De Rottenbnrg, Lieutenant 
Governor of Upper Canada, 69 ; left 
again in command by De Rotten- 
burg's departure to Kingston, 110; 
retreats again to Burlington on the 
news of battle of the Thames, 103, 
118; ordered to retire further, to 
York, and reasons for not doing so, 

WarrEX, Sir John. British admiral, 
and commander-in-chief on North 
American station, i. 387 ; Halifax 
and West Indian stations consoli- 
dated under, 387 ; charged with dip- 
lomatic overture to American Gov- 
ernment, 390 ; reply received by, 

391 ; first impressions on arrival, 

392 ; representations to, 401, and cor- 
respondence with, Admiralty, 402- 
404 ; proclamations of blockades, ii. 
9, 10; the lakes service under su- 

gjrvision of, 28 ; expectations of 
ritish Government and people 
from, 151 ; operations in the Chesa- 
peake, 155-169 ; quits Chesapeake 
for the season, 177 ; urgency of the 
Admiralty upon, 209-211; relieved 
by Cochrane, 330. Remark quoted, 

Warrington, Lewis. Commander, U. S. 
N., commanding " Peacock." Cap- 
tures " Epervier," ii. 258-261 ; sub- 
sequent cruise, 261-262; later cruise, 

Washington, City of. Capture by 
the British, ii. 337-350. 

Washington, George. Statements con- 
cerning conditions in the United 
States before the adoption of the 
Constitution, i. 47; as President of 
the United States, recommendations 
concerning the navy, ii. 212-213. 

" Wasp." American sloop of war. 
Action with, and capture of, 
"Frolic," i. 411-415; is captured 
with her prize by the " Poictiers," 
seventy-four, 415. 

•* Wasp." American sloop of war, 

built and named for the last, which 
was capttxred only by overwhelming 
force. Cruise of, ii. 253-258 ; action 
with, and capture of, " Reindeer," 
254 ; action with, and sinking of, 
" Avon," 256 ; disappears at sea, 257. 

Wellesley, Marqnis of. British Secre- 
tary for Foreign Affairs. Succeeds 
Canning, i. 229 ; treatment of the 
Jackson case, 230-231, 250-252; 
action in view of Champagny's 
letter, 238, 241-247; construction 
placed by him upon the American 
demands consequent on that letter, 
246; dilatory actions of, 252; sug- 
gests to Pinkney to reconsider his in- 
tended departure, in view of the 
nomination of Foster, 252 ; summary 
statement of the British policy in 
the Orders in Council, 253-254. 

Wellington, Duke of. Represents to 
British Government conditions in 
France, 1814, ii. 428, and imminence 
of trouble in Paris, 429 ; anxiety of 
British Government, to remove him 
from Paris, 429 ; pressed to accept 
the command in America, 429 ; 
reluctance of, 430 ; influence of, 
upon the negotiations at Ghent, 430- 
431 ; approves Prevost's retreat in 
default of naval command of the 
lakes, 430-431 ; opinion of Sher- 
brooke's occupation of Maine, 431 
(see also 354). 

West Indies. Relations of, to the 
mother country and to the colonies of 
the American continent, i. 32-40, 53— 
55, 56-58, 65-67 ; British expectation 
that in these relations the lost colo- 
nies might be replaced bv Canada, 
Nova Scotia, etc., 44-48, 50-51, 64; 
sufferings of, after 1776 and 1783, 
54, 62-63, 67 ; Pitt's measure, 1783, 
for benefit of, 58-60 ; measure fails, 
and Navigation Acts applied to 
intercourse between United States 
and, 68-70; effect upon, 75, 78, 79 ; 
recommendations of Committee of 
Pri\7- Council, 1791, 82-84; in- 
creased importance of, after out- 
break of French Revolution, 86-88 ; 
result, in fettering American inter- 
course with, 89, 95 ; concession to 
United States of trade to, obtained 
in Jay's treaty, 96 ; continued by 
British executive order, although 
article not confirmed by Senate, 97 ; 
course of British policy relating to, 
until 1805, 97-100; 'question of 



American trade from, "direct" or 
" indirect," raised in 1805, 100; de- 
cision adverse to American interests, 
101-103 ; object of new departure of 
British Government, 1 03 ; principle 
asserted identical with colonial prac- 
tice, and with Orders in Council of 
1807, which led to War of 1812, 104. 
As a field for operations against com- 
merce, ii. 229-240. 

Wilkinson, James. American general. 
Replaces Dearborn in command of 
New York frontier, ii. 104 ; Arm- 
strong's instructions to, 105 ; move- 
ments of, 106 ; concentrates at 
Saciiett's Harbor, 109-111 ; expedi- 
tion down St. Lawrence against 
Montreal, 112-115; failure of, and 
winter quarters at French Mills, 
116; removes thence to Plattsburg, 
278; abortive attempt against La 
Colle, 282-283; superseded by 
Izard, 283. 

Winder, William H. American gen- 
eral. Captured in the British attack 
at Stony Creek, ii. 47, 341 ; appointed 
to command the tenth military dis- 
trict, including Baltimore and 
Washington, 341 ; conditions found 
by, as shown by Court of Inquiry, 
342 ; operations of, 343-350. 

Woolsey, Melancthon T. Lieutenant 
(afterwards captain), U. S. N. Com- 
mands brig " Oneida " on Lake 

Ontario when war begins, i. 354; 
employed organizing lake force, 
364 ; affairs at Oswego, 1813, ii. 50- 
51 ; successful expedition by, in 1814, 

Yeo, Sir James Lucas. British com- 
modore. Appointed to charge of 
lakes service, under Sir J. Warren, 
ii. 29 ; attack on Sackett's Harbor, 
in combination with army, 42-45 ; 
in temporary control of Lake On- 
tario, 46-51 ; contest with Chauncey 
in 1813, 51-61 ; action of August 
10, 56-59, and September 11, 60; 
action of September 28, 106-109; 
subsequent movements in 1813, 111, 
114; proposed renewed attack on 
Sackett's Harbor, 280, 283 ; made 
on Oswego instead, 284 ; blockades 
Sackett's Harbor for a time, 285- 
289 ; abandons blockade, returns to 
Kingston, and there remains, 290 ; 
opinion of the importance of the St. 
Lawrence River, 292 ; inactive policy 
during summer of 1814, 303, 307 ; 
launches, and takes the lake with, a 
ship of 102 guns, giving him entire 
control, 323 ; observations at Sack- 
ett's Harbor, on his return to Eng- 
land after peace, 318 (note); given 
independent command on lakes 
after Warren's detachment, 330. 

-Sea pqwer_irL_ii^ 




Mahan, A. T. 

E • 

Sea power in its relations .K213 

to the war of 1812.